My family celebrates Thanksgiving with mouth-watering home-cooked food, using onions, potatoes, green beans and winter squash we grew in our garden.The meal is planned down to the smallest detail, with many hands pitching in to help prepare it.
There is another thoroughly planned meal in America, and it's not Thanksgiving dinner. It's school lunch. It's the proposed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
Once every five years, school meals are put on the congressional kitchen's front burner through reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act.
In these last days of this lame-duck session, the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is up for a vote in the House.
If the bill isn't on the president's desk soon, supporters will have to start over in the new Congress. It's like dropping the turkey in front of all the seated family and friends.
People across the country - from Rachael Ray to Michelle Obama - have worked to craft this bill that will affect 31 million children who clamor to the nation's school cafeterias to quell their grumbling bellies. For this bill to pass over the next few days, we must show our elected officials it is a national priority.
While one in three U.S. children is obese or overweight, one in four struggles with hunger. The USDA's Economic Research Service reported that more than 50 million Americans, including more than 17 million children, are food insecure - meaning they lack consistent access to a nutritious, well-balanced diet.
And in Montana, more than 18 percent of our children are food insecure.
Simultaneous hunger and obesity may seem like a paradox, but the root cause is the same: lack of access to healthy food. Give children nourishing food in the cafeteria, nutrition education in the classroom and hands-on learning through school gardens, and a lifetime of healthy eating can take root.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act would help reduce hunger by expanding the after-school supper program nationwide and better connecting eligible children with free school meals.
The bill would strengthen nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, provide schools with increased resources and training to improve meal quality, and support Farm to School programs and school gardens.
The act also establishes a competitive grant program in USDA to increase the use of local foods produced by family farms for local schools. The grant program would help create more Farm to School programs like the one in Whitefish, where the local Lions Club launched a farm-to-school garden this summer with hopes of producing 15,000 pounds of fresh vegetables for local school cafeterias or the one in Bozeman, where once a month schools offer kids something grown fresh in Montana.
Before you pass the turkey, consider helping to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act by contacting Congressman Rehberg and urging him to vote YES on this urgently needed legislation.
Give him a call at 888-232-2626 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A healthy school lunch for our children is something to be truly thankful for this holiday season.
- Kathleen Hadley is the executive director of the National Center for Appropriate Technology in Butte.