So while everyone else seems to be having a fit about something there are things that need to be attended to. One important issue that should be voted on before the lame duck session ends is the Renewal of the Child Nutrition Act. I've been following and writing about this issue for over a year now and yet we still don't have a new bill. Still.
You'd think what we feed our kids would be a priority. This seems to be a reoccurring theme throughout both legislative branches of Government, finding the funding, the resources and doing the right thing. But come on people, school lunches!
And we're talking about big issues, about overhauling the nutrition guidelines and actually attempting to give more money to provide a bit more nutrition and a little less junk to the thirty million plus kids who eat these meals every school day in American lunch rooms. We can do better.
The Hill reports that Time is Running out on Child Nutrition and that's one thing we don't have, more time.
Before Congress goes home this year, it should promote the wellbeing of our nation's kids by passing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This legislation provides a historic investment in the health of our children, is fully paid for, and won’t add to the deficit.
The bill provides an additional $4.5 billion for child nutrition over ten years. While many well-meaning groups wish the bill were even bigger, time is running out. In addition, pressure to reduce spending in Washington will mean that the next Congress may be more focused on deficit reduction than on healthy school foods. Consider what will happen if the House fails to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act:* Unhealthy foods and sugary drinks will remain in schools. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act includes a bipartisan provision to update the national standards for school foods sold through vending machines, schools’ stores and a la carte in the cafeteria. This provision enjoys broad support from the food and beverage industry and health and education groups. * Schools will miss out on $40 million for farm to school programs and school gardens. Promoting farm to school efforts that deliver fresh, locally grown food directly from the field to the cafeteria will improve students’ diets and support farmers.
There are other important things that need to be passed in this act and we cannot fail to act, we need to do something. So hey, why don't we take a second tomorrow and call your legislator and tell them to pass this now!
But here's where I get all nasty and progressive on you. Why do we need to cut food stamps to pay for school lunches? See this is where everything goes haywire in our need to be so rigidly tightfisted in times where we have to think about where we cut in the middle of a National financial meltdown with record numbers of Americans unemployed or underemployed. Not only are record numbers of people not working, a record number of them are dependent on Food stamps to get by. It's not a happy fact and it's not something that makes people feel all warm and fuzzy, but is this the best time to be robbing Peter to pay Paul?
In the dying days of this Congress, food activists face an awful choice: Should we support the increased funding of children's school lunches, even if it means taking money from a family's food stamps? That is what's on the table in a version of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill passed by the Senate, in which an improved school meal program will be paid for by cutting back $2 billion in funding for food stamps in 2013.
No one disputes that poor children need to be better fed, but government food stamp entitlements are the last tatters of a safety net for many millions of people. Evidence? Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that 50.2 million Americans were food insecure in 2009, a mere 1 million more than the year before. Although that's still one in six people, the figure was a victory. Given the soaring rates of poverty and unemployment in 2009, there could have been considerably more food insecure people.
This is the dilemma that people are struggling with when it comes to legislation in Congress. This is not about "pragmatism" or the professional left. This is about the basic necessity facing millions of people in our Country and our inability to find a spine and say, NO, I'm sorry but we can't abandon our brothers and sisters in this time of need.
NO I'M SORRY WE CANNOT ABANDON OUR FELLOW CITIZENS IN THIS TIME OF NEED.
How hard is that? This is not about the Republican or Democratic party, this is not about winning or losing elections this is about doing the right thing and making sure that people are FED, that children have at least one decent meal a day and that we should not HAVE TO MAKE THE CHOICE BETWEEN THE TWO.
And this is what our legislative process has come to, it has come to making choices that are impossible and immoral.
Do we leave 50 million people without health care or just 20 million?
How many more questions like this can some of us bear and not go a little insane?
And this is not about the deficit. The costs alone to improving child nutrition will save money, the money spent in food stamps actually helps stimulate the economy and allows people to EAT.
In findings echoed by other economists and studies, he said the study shows the fastest way to infuse money into the economy is through expanding the food-stamp program. For every dollar spent on that program $1.73 is generated throughout the economy, he said.
Extending unemployment allows a life line a bit longer until maybe those record profits might actually start meaning more jobs in the real world for people who are still looking.
The report pointed to expanding unemployment benefits as the program that gets the next biggest bang for the buck. That's because, although the unemployed are already getting checks, they need to spend the money. For every dollar spent here, the economy would see a return of $1.64, Zandi said.
That we have to discuss this choice, a choice that economists say will help stimulate the economy, be the right and moral thing to do and will help feed children in schools and people in need is what is making people frustrated and angry.
So you see, this is why things are not working. We are not having a conversation with the sane, this is not pragmatism when people refuse to see reality and are forcing the rational, the caring and the just to make such a ridiculous choice.
We should not have to chose between the two.