Booker, Cornyn Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand School Nutrition Education
Proposal would increase investments in hands-on projects for student health, nutrition
WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and John Cornyn (R-TX) today reintroduced a bipartisan bill to establish a new pilot program to fund nutritional education in schools. The Food and Nutrition Education in Schools Act would allocate federal funding for projects that educate students while connecting them to healthy food practices, with a priority given to schools in neighborhoods with high rates of childhood diet-related illnesses and those in which 40 percent of students qualify for free or reduce-priced meals.
Nutritious, healthy foods are critical to the wellness and academic performance of students. Several studies have shown that children are more likely to eat healthier foods when given the opportunity to participate in hands-on lessons that let them try a food multiple times and connect the dots between the classroom, the cafeteria, and a school garden. Because dietary illnesses can adversely impact school attendance and academic performance, equitable access to nutrition education can better prepare students for success in the classroom and beyond. Yet, the typical elementary school student receives less than five hours of nutrition education per year. This legislation seeks to reduce barriers to hands-on food and nutrition programs that help get more kids to eat the food already available to them at school while continuing to improve acceptance of healthy foods as kids learn to love them.
“As Ron Finley, an inspiring black leader and urban farmer in South Central Los Angeles once said, ‘South Central…[is] home of the drive-thru and the drive-by. Funny thing is, the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.’ Countless studies have demonstrated that a lack of access to nutritious food – particularly in underserved communities – manifests itself in all areas of human development, from increased rates of diet-related diseases to reduced academic performance,” said Senator Booker. “We must do more to ensure our kids have consistent and equitable access to healthy foods, along with the education that will help them make healthy diet choices throughout their lives. By prioritizing communities disproportionately impacted by food insecurity and diet-related illnesses, this bipartisan legislation would bring equitable access to food and nutrition education to children across the country.”
“By educating our youngest Texans to choose nutritious food options, we can set them up for good health and a future free of the many diseases linked to poor diet,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This bill would provide resources for programs that teach kids in Texas how to make choices that will keep them healthy and reduce the taxpayer burden of obesity-related disease.”
The Food and Nutrition Education in Schools Act provides grant funding to local educational agencies for projects that (1) hire full-time food and nutrition educators to implement programs in schools that have the goal of improving student health and nutrition and (2) fund school gardens or other evidence-based interventions relating to student health and nutrition to create hands-on learning opportunities for students.
Pilot programs must incorporate teaching techniques proven to maximize healthy food consumption, including hands-on learning, school gardens, taste testing, student engagement and farm-to-school practices. Projects must be in a variety of rural, suburban, and urban settings and at least one project must be located on an Indian reservation or at a school in which the majority of students are members of an Indian tribe.
A list of organizations that have endorsed the Food and Nutrition Education in Schools Act can be viewed here.
The full text of legislation can be viewed here.