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Calls provision allowing school lunch equipment purchases "wasteful spending"

August 31, 2010 (Washington D.C.) – Congressman Duncan D. Hunter (R-El Cajon) , a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, voted against sending H.R. 5504, the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act, to the full House for consideration. 


The bill aims to make school lunches more nutritious and get junk food out of schools. The goal is to improve children's health and cut down on childhood obesity, a national epidemic.  From 1980 to 2009, childhood obesity in America has tripled--and poor nutritional habits are largely to blame. In California, 30.5% of all children are obese, putting them at higher risk of diabetes and heart problems later on.


The bill also includes $100 million for National Schools Lunch Program equipment grants to enable schools to purchase food service equipment.


“With taxpayers already investing $20 billion each year in child nutrition, the legislation would add another $8 billion in new federal spending,” said Hunter in a newslettter to constituents. He added, "Families are making tough choices in today's economy. For many it might not be the best time to purchase new kitchen appliances. They are making do with what they have. The federal government should follow the same example."

The conservative Congressman offered an amendment to remove the equipment grants from the legislation and said he voted for an alternative measure that failed. “I intend to continue working to eliminate unnecessary and wasteful spending from the federal budget,” said Hunter, who voted against the bill after his amendment failed. 

According to the Congressional Budget Office analysis, the measure makes numerous changes to current law including:

• Requiring private companies selling food on a school campus during the school day to comply with nutrition standards set by the Secretary of Agriculture;
• Increase federal reimbursements to schools by 6 cents starting in 2013 if lunches and breakfasts served meet scientifically established nutrition standards
• Make it easier for poor students to receive meals through direct certification of children in families receiving Medicaid and military families
• Authorize a pilot school nutrition program for summer months in 10 states


Total cost of the program is estimated at $2 billion for the next four years, 2011-2015, and $6.5 billion over the 2011-2020 period, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Potentially, some federal costs could be offset, however, by savings on medical expenses if the program succeeds in improving children’s health and reducing obesity.


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There is no free lunch!

Well, when I went to high school in the 60's my mother packed my lunch. Since my generation invented all this technology we are using I assume we were well fed? At some point it became the governments job to feed everyone. And you wonder why we are in debit up to our ears!

Here's an interesting history on school lunches:

The first school lunch programs started in Germany in the late 1700s.  Early programs in the U.S. began in the mid-1800s.  A 1904 study in New York estimated that 60,000 children were coming to school hungry due to poverty.  Studies have shown that malnutrition inhibits learning; one study found IQ levels went up 18 points when children were provided proper nutrition.

You were fortunate to have a family that could afford to pack a lunch for you. There are some families in America today who are so poor that all family members are routinely missing meals and children are going hungry. I happen to hear quite a bit about the severity of this problem, since my former sister-in-law works for the food stamp program in Washington.  The number of people poor enough to qualify has gone way up in the past several years due to the recession under both the Bush and Obama administrations. 

You may not be aware that the fastest growing segment of the homeless population in America today is children.  Homeless children do attend schools, and have little other options to get enough food, especially in areas with no official shelters for homeless families, such as East County. 

Assuming we don't want to go back to workhouses for the poor, as in Dickens' England, to assure that poor children are fed, what other options are there?  I don't think that many folks understand the desperation in some households right now, with parents out of work; the financial market meltdown made the situation worse, with many people losing homes, savings and investments.  

None of these problems are the children's fault, of course. But they are the ones suffering.  The economy is far worse than when you or I were kids -- this is the worst economy in California since the Depression in 1929.

There are some hopeful signs; the latest jobs figures released yesterday were actually quite positive; if you toss out temporary Census job "layoffs" that skewed the numbers, there was a net positive gain of something like 60,000 jobs created by the private sector, PBS reported yesterday.  That may be a sign that the stimulus and/or tax incentives for businesses to begin hiring again are beginning to kick in.  So hopefully more parents will start working again and the number of needy families will begin to drop over time.


Here is the whole story,

Here is the whole story, featured on Congressman Hunter's website: It clearly says he voted for an alternative, in addition to the fact that the equipment program is one of many new programs in the bill, contributing to billions in additional spending. That program was originally part of the stimulus bill, said to be "timely, targeted and temporary." So much for any of that. And never before has the federal government provided school lunch equipment, instead leaving that to states. There are far better ways to spend dollars on education.

Our story does mention an alternative, however


bottom line was he voted against the measure on the table funding the school lunch program, albeit for the reasons he has outlined.

I was not aware that buying equipment has been up to the states; thank you for providing that detail.


Many states are cash-strapped now so perhaps that's the reason the feds felt help was needed at this time.

That's not the reason either.

That's not the reason either. There is approx. $200 billion plus in stimulus funding available, some of which could have been used if absolutely needed for school equipment that states generally provide. But this creates a new program, 5 year authorization cycle, that was said to be a one-time program in the stimulus. This is not about being "cash-strapped." On a whole, most of the $8 billion in new funding was not offset, meaning it adds to the debt. The substitute would have kept the current funding structure in place ($20 billion for school lunch) and offered other revisions to current law. Evidently, important details, such as who funds school lunch equipment, were left out of the story.


Does he realize what school lunches consist of??? There has been SO much attention to this issue in the past couple of years. I can tell you when I graduated from high school in the late 1990s, school lunch consisted of a hamburger and fries, a cheeseburger and fries, or the inexplicable combo of burrito (more like a chimichanga since it was deep fried) and fries.....on break cinnamon rolls were sold.

As a child that often had to rely on the reduced cost school lunch, I can attest firsthand that it did not fulfill my nutritional needs.

I think it's very sad that in these recent times, with Type 2 Diabetes so prevalent in not only adults, but children too, that a representative opposes making school lunch healthier. I only hope his kids aren't eating the deep fried items everyday.