HHFKA (Healthy Hunger-free Kids Act) was adopted by Congress in December 2010 and takes effect with this school year. The advocates for the law include Deb Lukkonen, director of Minnesota School Food Service. She recently wrote:
“One in three kids in the US is overweight or obese, and the number is growing! If we want our kids to live as long as their parents, we have to start changing eating habits now! The kids who will be the squeaky wheel in this issue are the senior high kids. The K-6 grades are our best target group to be able to learn different habits and make healthier choices.”
Opposition to the law, which includes AASA (American Association of School Superintendents) lobbied against the law in 2010 arguing that the $.06 reimbursement increase was only a one-third of the projected cost increase of the implementation of the new food standards in the law, and that the law was unduly restrictive. (MREA is a member of the National Rural Education Coalition which is part of AASA). Learn more about the guidelines and implementing them.
Option to Not Adopt?
It remains unclear if school districtshave to adopt the new standards. Noelle Ellerson, AASA lobbyist suggested she had understood they may be voluntary. However, Lukkonen said that is not the case.
Even if they are voluntary, there are issues to consider with that strategy:
- The loss of the $.06 increase in meal reimbursement
- The PR problem of framing your decision to opt out so you are not on the side of obesity
- The mandatory Competitive Foods Standards due out the end of this year. To have one standard without the other could be logistical nightmare, according to Ellerson.
The competitive foods standards will be the next political “food fight.” These standards are expected to restrict not only vending machines in schools, but schools’ a la carte lines, which now are the fallback for student athletes.
If these issues are of concern to your district, your parents, this is the perfect year to have your views and voices known. All eight congressional representatives and Minnesota’s Senate seat are up for election, and Senator Franken sits on the Senate’s HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) committee with oversight of Federal Education Policy.
The best way this year to get attention to this issue is to show up at debates and raise the issue. You can also email candidates (both incumbents and challengers) about the challenges of the law. Personal stories work the best rather than talking about technical details of the law.
Current Congressional Representatives: