Higher Financial Federal Support to Schools Serving Fresh Fruits, Veggies, Whole Grains

USDA Backs Rewarding Schools Serving Healthy Food
By Christopher Doering

Officials at the USDA are updating the nutrition and meal requirements used for school meals. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Schools that serve more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to pupils should see higher federal support rates than those serving less-healthier meals loaded with high fats and sugar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Tuesday. Child nutrition programs, which include school lunch and breakfast, are due for an overhaul but Congress is not expected to act before 2010. The government has targeted improving the nutritional quality and access to school meals amid rising child obesity rates.

“It is important for us to reward top performers,” Vilsack told the Senate Agriculture Committee. “We would encourage this committee and the Congress to take a look at reimbursement rates that would be linked directly to increased nutritional values.”

He did not suggest how large the bonus should be. Schools get $2.88 in cash and Agriculture Department-provided food for each lunch meal served for free to poor children this school year. School meal programs provide an estimated 40 million meals daily and more than half the student’s food intake during the school day. Students can receive free or subsidized meals if their family’s income is low enough. Some $16.9 billion was allotted for child nutrition in the fiscal year that opened on October 1, up $1.9 million from fiscal 2008.

Obesity rates among U.S. children have doubled in the last 20 years, and almost a third of American children are either overweight or obese. The epidemic of obesity is linked to a host of health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln told Vilsack she was willing to pay more to serve healthier foods.

Read more at Reuters.com

Food, Inc.: Special Benefit Screening in Amherst for CISA

Food, Inc.: Discover What “Big Agriculture” Doesn’t Want Farmers to Tell You

Tomorrow, Monday June 29, at 7:00pm at the Amherst Cinema there will be a special screening of Food, Inc. to benefit Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), followed by a discussion panel.

In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults. Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms’ Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising and often shocking truths about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here. (Director Robert Kenner. 94 mins, Rated PG)

Opens June 26, 2009 at Amherst Cinema in Amherst, MA.  Showtimes: Friday 6/26 through Thursday 7/2 – 2:15pm, 4:15pm, 7:00pm, 9:15pm.  Plus Saturday 6/27 and Sunday 6/28 – 11:45am. NOTE: Monday 6/29 9:15pm show moves to 9:45pm. Baby-friendly Show Tuesday 6/30 2:15pm

REVIEW BY VARIETY: With a constituency limited to anyone who eats, “Food, Inc.” is a civilized horror movie for the socially conscious, the nutritionally curious and the hungry. Yes, it has a deceptively cheery palette, but helmer Robert Kenner’s doc — which does for the supermarket what “Jaws” did for the beach — marches straight into the dark side of cutthroat agri-business, corporatized meat and the greedy manipulation of both genetics and the law. Doc biz may be in the doldrums, but “Food, Inc.” is so aesthetically polished and politically urgent, theatrical play seems a no-brainer, though it won’t do much for popcorn sales.  Read the rest of this entry »

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