|The Child Nutrition Act, passed by the House of Representatives today, will mean more money for the city to spend on school lunches. (Photo by Jeanmarie Evelly)|
The New York City public school system serves up a total of 860,000 cafeteria meals a day, and has about 90 cents to spend on each of them. This year, with a first lady in the White House who’s put nutrition at the top of her agenda, the Child Nutrition Act includes an additional $4.5 billion more than the one that was reauthorized five years ago.
“When they reauthorize, rarely do they include new funding, which is why this bill is being cited as historic,” said Kristen Mancinelli, from hunger advocacy group City Harvest and the NYC Alliance for Child Nutrition Reauthorization.
The extra funding means the city will be reimbursed an extra six cents per school lunch. More money will mean healthier, better quality food in the cafeteria, advocates say.
"Access to healthy foods is a big problem in the Bronx, and that puts extra pressure on the schools to have the resources provide a healthy meal," said Heidi Hynes, director at the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center in Crotona. "The schools can do a better job if they have more money."
But the additional money in the bill this year comes at a price, as the Senate dipped into stimulus funds intended for SNAP, or the federal food stamps program, cutting $2.2 billion to offset the costs of the nutrition bill.
The cuts have put anti-hunger advocates in an awkward position, where support for one nutrition program means a major setback for another.
"We've been asking for a new investment in child nutrition for a year and a half, and now what [they're] trying to do is shift money from another program that is benefitting the same children, and calling it a new investment, when that's not what it is," Mancinelli said.
"There are almost 2 million people in New York City that are receiving SNAP," she continued. "In the Bronx, Serrano's district has the highest food stamp participation in the country. So that’s a tremendous blow to real people."
Bronx Congressmen Jose E. Serrano, Eliot Engel and Joseph Crowley all voted in favor of the legislation, which will now go to President Obama for approval. Anti-hunger advocates, in the meantime, are hoping the SNAP cuts will be restored with funding from elsewhere.