On Dec. 13th, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, a law that, according to the White House press release on the subject, “authorizes funding for federal school meal and child nutrition programs and increases access to healthy food for low-income children. The bill that reauthorizes these programs is often referred to by shorthand as the child nutrition reauthorization bill. This particular bill reauthorizes child nutrition programs for five years and includes $4.5 billion in new funding for these programs over 10 years” (1).
The main benefit of the new law is to increase access to school meal programs for more than 115,000 children, mainly living in working class areas. Unsurprisingly, the bill came under fire from the right-wing and the Tea Party as “government-mandated nutrition” and “big government.” Its price tag was condemned while leaving the U.S. military’s budget unmentioned. The American Party of Labor firmly believes that no child should go hungry. The new Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is on the surface a law to grant healthier food options to America’s youth at a lower cost. It also allows for the automatic eligibility of foster kids for free meals and national nutritional standards.
However, it must also be asked why such a concession is being granted. One secret catch of this legislation is where exactly the money for its passage and funding came from. As an article in the L.A. Times noted: “[Obama] said the money for funding the increase came from cuts in the food-stamp program but that he was committed to working with Congress to find a way to restore those funds” (2).
As well as seeking to address the issue of hunger and lack of nutrition in our country’s youth, the new act of legislation also seeks to address the growing problem of obesity. Due to the consistent use of dangerous levels of salt and sugar in junk foods, obesity, once confined to a small number of the population, has grown at an alarming rate. One not-so-obvious reason for the passage of this bill is the military-industrial complex. In the words of Retired Army Generals and former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John M. Shalikashvili and Hugh Shelton:
“Being overweight or obese is the No. 1 medical reason why young men and women are unable to join the military. […] The final bill includes provisions that can get junk food out of schools, nourish more kids who need healthful meals and motivate them and their parents to adopt healthful eating and exercise habits. Military concerns about the fitness of American children are not new. When the National School Lunch Act was first passed in 1946, it was seen as a matter of national security. At the time many military leaders recognized that poor nutrition was a significant factor reducing the pool of qualified candidates for service. Our country is facing another serious health crisis. Obesity rates threaten the overall health of America and the future strength of our military. We must act, as we did after World War II, to ensure that our children can one day defend our country, if need be.”
After such words, it becomes rather apparent that the best interests of our country’s children is not the only reason for this reform. Time will tell if Obama will keep his promise regarding the funding for food stamps or if he will renege, as he’s reneged on other things.