Time for Lunch: A Campaign for Real Food

When I first heard about Time for Lunch, a national campaign to get real food in schools, it sounded like an admirable cause, but I wasn't instantly moved to action. I don't have kids, I grew up bringing my lunch to school, and my interests lean toward home cooking, not cafeteria meals.

But the more I thought about the health of the 30 million children who eat at school, not getting involved was no longer an option. With lawmakers considering the Child Nutrition Act this September, here are a few things we can all do...

Learn about the issues. The Child Nutrition Act, which governs the National School Lunch Program, is up for reauthorization in September. Congress will consider the standards for food that more than 30 million children eat every school day. Currently, schools are suffering from budget cuts and struggling to provide students with healthy, delicious food. At a time when one in four children is overweight or obese (and one in three will develop diabetes in his or her lifetime), many citizens are concerned about continuing to serve them cheap, overly processed fast food at school.

Time for Lunch is a national campaign asking Congress to give schools the resources they need to serve real, healthy food. The campaign, which is sponsored by Slow Food USA, calls for reforms to the current Child Nutrition Act, including giving schools one dollar more per day for each child’s lunch; establishing strong standards for all food sold at school, including vending machines and fast food; funding grants for innovative Farm to School programs and school gardens; establishing financial incentives that encourage schools to buy food from local farms; and creating green jobs with a School Lunch Corps.

Sign the petition. If you agree with the Time for Lunch platform, you can sign their online petition.

Contact your legislators. Let your legislators know what you want to see in the Child Nutrition Act. The Time for Lunch site has tips for writing and calling legislators.

Eat! On Labor Day, September 7, people will gather across the country to share a meal and support the cause. You can join one of over 270 Time for Lunch Eat-Ins already planned, or start your own. In my neighborhood, we will be holding a potluck with dishes rich in family history and local ingredients. We'll share food with friends and neighbors and send a clear message to Congress: It's time to provide America's children with real food at school.

Further reading:
Congress may bolster school lunch nutrition, from Los Angeles Times
Stars Aligning on School Lunches, from New York Times
Let the school-meals revolution begin, from San Francisco Chronicle
Why a Twenty-Something Should Care About School Lunch from Civil Eats
5 Worst School Lunch Menu Items, from HowStuffWorks

Related: Obama Wants a Farmers Market at the White House

(Image: Slow Food USA)

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Emily Han (formerly Emily Ho) is a writer, recipe developer and educator on topics such as food preservation, wild food and herbalism. She is author of Wild Drinks and Cocktails (Fall 2015), co-founder of Food Swap Network and creator of Miss Chiffonade