On June 26th, Representative Susie Lee (NV), the American Heart Association, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and other members of the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA) coalition held a congressional briefing on school meals and the need to protect nutritional standards to keep our young ones happy and healthy. The timing of the hearing was especially important as issues like school meals are currently being negotiated as Congress works on the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill.
hero_image_alt_text===Gina Conyers with Rep. Susie Lee (left) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (right)
thumbnail_alt_text===Gina Conyers with Rep. Susie Lee (left) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (right)
Healthy school meals help combat childhood obesity and poor cardiovascular health, but they also help establish a foundation for a lifetime of healthy behaviors. In fact, studies have shown that healthy school meals can help improve academic performance and even increase attendance in schools!
Unfortunately, in December of 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued their final rule on school nutrition standards which will result in children being served fewer whole grains and high levels of sodium. We organized this briefing to combat efforts to reduce nutrition standards further and educate Congressional staff on the need to improve those standards.
Joining our host Representative Susie Lee of Nevada were her colleagues Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia and Representative Rosa DeLauro who is the Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. While her title is a mouthful, she is the financial gatekeeper in Congress for many AHA priorities like healthy school meals and medical research funding.
You’re the Cure (YTC) brought 2 outstanding advocates to Washington D.C. to sit on a panel and talk about the importance of healthy school meals. One, Dr. Stephen Cook spoke about his experience as a pediatrician and how serving healthy meals at school is imperative for childhood development and how eating right can set children up for a successful future. The other, Gina Conyers, a heart survivor added the all-important personal experience as a mother who relies on the school cafeteria to feed her kid healthy food as he is predisposed to potential heart ailments. They spoke on the importance of keeping nutritional standards strong, and they had a tremendous impact. But don’t take our words for it, see for yourself by watching these short videos we created from the briefing room in the halls of Congress:
The briefing was a smashing success and garnered a lot of attention on Capitol Hill; there was even a line out the door waiting to hear what the panel had to say! After a spirited panel discussion, including a question and answer portion to educate Congressional staff, Representative DeLauro made an impassioned speech about how Congress works. She highlighted that Congress needs pressure from constituents and advocates like Gina if we want to see action, putting a spotlight on the grassroots work by You’re the Cure advocates.
Despite the success, there are still some in Congress who do not want to invest in our children’s health and are seeking to cut government spending on vital programs like this. As the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill continues to progress, we will need to be alert and ready to take action to protect school meals and other important issues that can foster a healthy adolescence.