Who cares about children’s health anyway?

by Megan on Nov 29, 2010 in Nutrition | No Comments

What type of a person would propose eliminating a budget gap by removing the funding for healthy school food? It would need to be someone willing to undo months, and months, of hard-work by parents, teachers, and public health advocates. That person would need to be willing to continue sacrificing the health of the children in his community, and the nation’s long-term public health. They’d have to believe that setting an example for the rest of the nation – showing the country that change is possible and that we CAN improve school food and the health of this country – isn’t really that important.

So what type of person would that be? Mayor Adrian Fenty, the mayor of DC, apparently.

Last week, in an effort to close the city’s $188 million budget gap, Fenty proposed eliminating some of the funding that had been designated for implementing the Healthy Schools Act, passed last May.

While Congress is twiddling their thumbs, trying to decide whether to provide the nation’s school lunch program with an extra measly 6 cents per meal, the Healthy Schools Act provided DC schools with an extra 10 cents for every breakfast, 10 cents for every lunch, and even another 5 cents for lunches with a locally grown food.

The Healthy Schools Act is the strongest school nutrition bill this country has ever seen. Not only does it require all meals to meet the Institute of Medicine’s nutritional standards for fat and sodium, regulate all competitive foods, require schools with high poverty rates to serve breakfast in the classroom (read why this is important), improve physical activity and health education standards, and more - it also FULLY funds it all. Or at least, it did.

I wholeheartedly believe that school food funding should be at the top of our country’s priority list — but, clearly, it’s not. And that’s all this is, a matter of priorities. We find the money to fund everything from the war in Iraq to wood utilization research, but passing a bill to provide an extra $4.5 billion over TEN years for the national school lunch program? Forget it.

Nearly half of all DC children, and more than 55% of all DC residents, are overweight or obese. If that isn’t a reason to hunt for somewhere else to take the money from, I don’t know what is.

Despite tough economic times, DC’s current human services budget is 10% less than what it was 3 years ago. Yet, Fenty is choosing to cut funding for a program that will help ensure children receive at least two healthy, nutritious meals a day.

Under DC’s current tax system, residents earning $40,000 pay the same marginal tax rate as those making $1 million, and residents earning between $33,000 and $57,000 pay 10.5 percent of their income in taxes while those earning above $250,000 pay only 7 percent. By raising the rate on income above $200,000 by just ONE percent, and requiring two-earner families to report their income together, Fenty could bring in around $75 million dollars, all the while affecting less 5 percent of households in DC. For many of those households, the increase would be no more than the cost of a cup of coffee per day.

Live in DC? Tell your council member to protect the D.C. Healthy Schools Act by implementing a more progressive income tax on high income earners. Make sure to mention the Healthy Schools Act.

If you can, attend the hearing on closing the budget gap tomorrow, Tuesday, November 30, 2010, at 9:30 a.m., in the Council Chamber, Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.  To add your name to the list of those testifying, call or email Maria Villars at (202) 724-8139 or mvillars@dccouncil.us

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About Megan

My passion lies in empowering people to become advocates for a healthier world. I truly believe we can make a difference in our communities and that belief empowers me to seek out new and creative ways to create change.

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