Nearly 300 eat-ins are scheduled in all 50 states on Labor Day to protest unhealthy food in the nation’s schools.
Time for Lunch is a campaign organized by Slow Food USA. The non-profit that promotes consumption of healthy foods for children has been in existence for nine years. It is a spinoff of an organization that began in Italy following a protest to keep a McDonalds from opening in a piazza in Rome.
“Our main point is that we’re still seeing an increase in the obesity rate and we saw that we have a tremendous organization that has representatives across the country and can mobilize to get the attention of Congress that we need to get real foods – fruits and vegetables – to kids,” said Brian Sinderson, Slow Food USA spokesman. “We want to show there is a real need and a movement behind it that will fight for it. The Obama administration needs to be shown there is a need and a movement.”
The Time for Lunch effort is two-fold: An eat-in on Sept. 7, Labor Day, in which people avoid eating out and instead share the type of dish they believe should be served in schools, and the signing of a petition to Congress to show what lawmakers should add to the Child Nutrition Act, which will be reauthorized this fall.
Sinderson said Slow Food’s Time for Lunch campaign, which is supported by a number of organizations, including Food & Water Watch, The Center for Ecoliteracy and Roots of Change, is asking Congress to consider the following three items:
• Invest in child health. The organizations are calling for spending increases on children of one dollar per day, per student. Currently, the United States spends about $2.58 per child. A dollar of which goes into ingredients and the rest for operating costs.
• Improve standards. All food served in public schools should meet dietary guidelines established by the United States Department of Agriculture. Meals served to students receiving free or reduced lunch currently meet the standards, but fast foods, food in vending machines and foods served before and after school during extracurricular activities do not.
• Education. Students should be taught healthy eating habits to last a lifetime, and school garden programs should be funded. Legislation was passed to support such farms to schools programs, but money was not allocated to sponsor them. Slow Food is calling for Congress to spend $50 million on food education.
Sinderson said about $15 billion is current spent on supporting national school lunch programs. The Obama administration has already pledged $1 billion in additional funding. Slow Food is asking for about $2 billion to $3 billion more for healthy school food and programs.
To sign the petition, find an eat-in, or host an eat-in on Labor Day, visit slowfoodusa.org/timeforlunch.