As the number of students qualifying for free and reduced school meal programs increases, and the obesity epidemic spirals ever onward, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHKFA) takes on increased interest for PTAs as the act seeks to improve nutritional standards and access to nutritious meals for students.
The National PTA calls for the reauthorized legislation to:
- Improve and enhance opportunities for parents to participate in the development of local school wellness policies.
- Maintain, at a minimum, the current school nutrition standards and Smart Snack guidelines.
- Deliver technical assistance and resources to schools that are not meeting the nutrition standards.
- Provide federal grants and loan assistance for schools to improve kitchen infrastructure and equipment.
- Oppose any attempt to “block grant” the school nutrition program, or reduce the number of students eligible to participate in the free and reduced-price school meals program.
Over the past two decades, the Illinois PTA has recognized and responded to the needs of students by adopting positions relating to:
- Eating disorders and risk of nutritional deficiency as part of the school health curricula (2000).
- The dissemination of information on the detrimental effects of childhood obesity (2005).
- Best practices for addressing and treating childhood obesity through local PTA units, councils, districts and regions in cooperation with other like-minded associations and organizations (2005).
We continue to support the National School Lunch Program and the National School Breakfast Program, and Illinois PTA supported the Breakfast After the Bell bill in 2016. Currently, both the National PTA and the Illinois PTA are watching federal legislation (S1064, HR2401) which are designed to remove the stigmatization of students participating in either of the programs mentioned above.
As schools continue to refine developed health and wellness policies, which include nutritional guidelines, the Illinois PTA will continue to call upon school districts to include parents in the decision-making on revisions to health and policies.