Like many parents after a long family holiday, I usually welcome the moment when my kids head back to school. But this year it has got me thinking about what kind of schools our kids are returning to—and whether or not we are providing them with the best environment to learn. Mostly I am concerned about food, the fuel we give them. As a chef and as a father, I am very upset by what's on the menu at most schools: chicken nuggets and tater tots and ketchup and pizza.
The lunch ladies, the administrators, the people who feed our kids want to do better. But they are limited by one thing: a lack of money. The federal government spends about $2.51 per child per day to feed them lunch. Out of that you have to pay for labor, facilities, and administrative costs, leaving about a dollar for food. Imagine trying to feed yourself a nutritious meal every day with only a dollar. Very difficult. Now imagine trying to do that while satisfying the picky palate of a typical school kid.
Right now, we have an opportunity to change that. Every five years, Congress takes another look at the issue when the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act is voted on, opening the door for discussion about possible improvements to these programs as well as increased funding. Among other things, the CNR provides money for and sets nutritional guidelines school for school lunch programs. Every five years it comes up for renewal. It is the most important piece of legislation that no one has ever heard of.