The Right Feeding Therapy for Children With Feeding Disorder

Feeding disorder for children has been a common problem for several years that requires special attention and treatment. In this article, the factors affecting children’s eating pattern will be thoroughly discuss.

Feeding therapy addresses the feeding problems of a child to prevent further negative nutritional and growth effects. First thing to do is, the existing medical problems can affect feeding behaviour such as Hirsch sprung disease, gastric acid reflux and so on and so forth. It is imperative that other medical team in the treatment process ensure safe methods of treatments. Knowing these elements will give you as as parent with more options to take.

Keep in mind that feeding therapy is not a one-man job. A team of physicians, occupational therapist, nutritionist, and behavioural analyst comprises what we call “medical team.” As you go deeper with helping your child, familiarize these people for the effective way of dealing with the problem at hand. Allow the child to understand the reason behind of the frequent visits to the doctors. This action will elicit trust and comfort for the child’s state of mind.

There are various interventions involved in instituting a feeding program to your child. One of this is behavioural feeding program. In this strategy, the clinician’s idea that nutrition is the primary issue. During mealtime, offer foods proven successful to fulfill the child’s hunger and increases the appetite. Introduce new foods little by little during snacks in a setting that has minimal disturbance. Gradually increase the amount and timing of new food you feed until the child gets used to the activities. Take into consideration the utensils, the height of the chair and the smell of the food served. Take note the child’s reaction during mealtime of the introduced intervention.

The other method includes the instructional hierarchy, which has three parts or stages of development: The acquisition period, the fluency, and the generalization. During the acquisition period, the child is adjusting to the new behaviour towards food. While in the fluency, the child practices the acquired behaviour towards the food. Finally, in the generalization phase, the child can apply the learned behaviour with various new food introduced.

Other interventions of feeding therapy are precursor-based, which include changes made to the dimensions of the food and changes made to how the food, and consequence-based, where you reinforce the mealtime behavior, and extinguish negative mealtime behaviours. Positive reinforcement includes access to a preferred toy paired with verbal praise each time the child completes the required task (i.e., takes a bite). Gradually increase the difficulty of the task implemented. If the child does not accept in a set time (i.e. five seconds), no toy provided and the feeder should not pay any attention. Initially, ignoring behaviours may result in an increase in the negative behaviours but with persistence, will reduce significantly in time.

Supervising children with feeding disorders is not an easy task. A team approach is important to deal with all aspects of the child’s care, including medical status, nutrition, sensory issues, and positioning, as well as feeding and swallowing. Patience and creativity on the part of the intervention team are essential to ensure the child’s success and well-being.

Cuts to the Income Security Programs Need to Be Rethought

Cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as Food Stamps) may be coming soon thanks to our congress. Both Democrats and Republicans have included some form of cuts in recent bills that failed to pass but that doesn’t mean some cuts will not be forthcoming. The problem is, can we as a country really say to the poor, “no, we will not feed you” and is it the best thing for our country at this time.

Clearly no government has unlimited funds to bestow on its citizens and the rate of spending of our government will have to be pulled back. Arguments by our nation’s top economists all have valid points but none of them agree. Economics is a science of: How people decide to spend their money (resources). It is a social science and it is partially determined by the underlining suppositions taken by the economist; which is why no two economists agree.

Some argue we need to cut back spending now to sustainable levels, which will reduce one of the three major inputs to our economy (the three are: consumer spending, government spending and investments). But economists accurately point out that reduce government spending at this time may be enough to drop the economy into another recession.

Then the other option is to increase taxes to pay for the spending, which is how a household would view their options, if they can not cut spending, and then they need more income. Problem here is the “income” comes from taxpayers, these taxpayers are equally strapped financially and increased taxes will mean less spending in the market place. Consumer spending is the largest segment of the three determining our economy

Consumers are barely making it financially, having lost large portions of their net worth in housing and retirement accounts, any shock could cause a large drop in spending which would negatively effect our economy, possibly leading to job losses and reduced actually tax income for the government.

The last possible option for a household is to string it out a little longer hoping for a positive change. If the household could use their credit cards to put food on the table and worry about how to pay it back latter, they probably would. Especially if they had children to worry about, this is a bad situation but one that many families in the past five years have found themselves. Strangely, it appears this is where our government finds itself.

The government does not want to use the word depression, and it has been said that a depression is just a really bad recession. Economists do not have a clear cut definition but history does. You see the great depression was marked by the start of a recession, the recession last only 18 months. However the damage to the American People lasted until the start of WWII.

There were 135 million Americans in 1930 and unemployment was 25% with underemployment running to 50%. Our country was not good about keeping statistics of its citizens at that time, so some things are guesstimates by scholars. One of those guesstimates is of the number of people who needed the soup lines. I have seen estimates as low as 3000 to numbers as high as 30 million. My guess, based on my reading is 17-18 million or about 12.9% to 13.6% of the population.

Today we have $44.6 million people on food stamps, in a country of 305 million. This means about 14.6% of our population would likely be standing in soup lines today if we did not have food stamps.

“Poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups, from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest poor. More discouraged workers are giving up on the job market, leaving them vulnerable as unemploymnet aid begins to run out.” ( http://news.yahoo.com/us-poverty-track-rise-highest-since-1960s-112946547–finance.html )

In fiscal year 2005 we had 24.5 million using the food stamp program. It is hardly fathomable that 20 million more people are struggling just to have their basic needs met. (www.fns.usda.gov/ora/menu/Published/snap/FILES/Participation/Trends1999-2005)

Our food stamp program was started as a temporary insurance for our citizens to allow them the use of their income to change their situation. Clearly a majority of these recipients were harmed by the housing bubble and subsequent recession.

To simplify a complex situation, our government is like a household that can not cover all of its obligations. Economists are saying it is a bad idea to cut back its budget and that increasing its income is equally bad idea. Leaving a very poor idea of stringing things along in the hope things will change for the better.

Mean while they get pressure to do something, and to do nothing mean that our government representatives will see the unemployment line (something they want to avoid).

A yahoo article, Republicans may delay House bill to cut food stamps (Thu, Jul 12, 2012), starts out naming the republicans for proposing cuts to the food stamp program but later states that the democrats are also looking to cut the program.

Clearly there is not enough money to cover all the spending programs our country has, yet there is no good answer for the situation our country is in today. Investments need to be encouraged, since that area by itself could bring our economy back on track.

I find myself thinking of who I would want to pay for this, myself or my kids and there is no debate here. If it means a better future for them, tax me now. Yes I know it increases my costs, yes it risks my financial well being because the economy is likely to contract, but let’s pay this bill now, in a responsible manner (no blank checks). Hopefully making it a brighter future for our children and feeding the needy today.

Feeding Wild Birds Responsibly

On March 19, 2009, the US Department of the Interior released a new report on the national “State of the Birds.” The report states that “(b)irds are bellwethers of our natural and cultural health as a nation… The results are sobering: bird populations in many habitats are declining-a warning signal of the failing health of our ecosystems.” Considering that conservation efforts have been going on for at least the last 50+ years (since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring), this is indeed a sobering report. Obviously our conservation efforts were too little, too late.

According the Report, 75 million Americans, 1 in every 4 consider themselves birdwatchers. In excess of 50 million are feeding wild birds. In spite of so much interest and support, loss of habitat continues unabated in the rush to develop more land. Natural nesting sites and food resources are lost. To help stop the decline the single most important thing we can do as individuals is restore natural habitat on our own property. Take an active, responsible role in managing your habitat. If you manage property, you are managing habitat and wildlife.

Why Feed Wild Birds?

People are feeding wild birds for a variety of reasons including entertainment, relaxation, observing and/or studying nature, provide meaningful support to local populations, and so on. As stated above, many wild bird populations are declining. Reasons for the declines include habitat loss, environmental degradation, seasonal changes, local weather, climate change, inadequate forage, and so on. Wild birds have a relatively high metabolic rate that requires food on a regular and consistent basis. Many birds die during the winter, during droughts, cold spells, prolonged rains, and any other conditions that reduce the availability of forage leading to stress,weakness, reduced resistance to disease and parasites, and starvation. Feeding wild birds can help sustain populations when natural food supplies are hard to find.

Feeding Preferences of Wild Birds

Whether your goal is just to attract wild birds to a feeding station for your own enjoyment or to provide birds with the minimum nutrients they need for optimum health and reproduction, feeding preferences of birds are very important in determining what type of food products will best meet your needs.

In general, wild birds can be grouped together by the types of feed they eat. This does not necessarily mean that granivores (seed-eaters), for example, eat only seed. Granivores prefer seed to other foods and specific types of seed to others. Since it is rare in nature to find a food that is readily and always available, it is important to remember that most birds select food in order of their preferences.

While there are a number of types of feed, feeding wild birds usually involves only four:

a. Granivores – seed or grain feeders like finches and sparrows. Many seeds and seed mixes are available for

granivores.

b. Frugivores – fruit feeders like tanagers. There are dehydrated fruit products for frugivores.

c. Insectivores – insect feeders like blue birds and woodpeckers. There are a number of live and dehydrated

insect products.

d. Nectarivores – nectar feeders like hummingbirds. There are several commercial nectar diets available.

In addition to the importance of feeding preferences when feeding wild birds, feeding behaviors of wild birds should be considered when selecting feeders. Some wild birds including robins and doves forage on the ground. Others like woodpeckers and nuthatches forage on the bark of trees. Goldfinches and other granivores forage on the seed heads of grasses.

Casual Bird Feeding

The vast majority of people who are feeding wild birds are casual participants. For them feeding wild birds is primarily a part time activity involving offering wild birds treats and enjoying the benefits of watching their behaviors. The casual participant is one who may on impulse, while shopping at the supermarket, grab a bag of seed or a suet cake. They do not feel any responsibility for feeding wild birds anything more then bird candy. Wild birds are free to forage for their own nutritional needs. If your interest in feeding wild birds is casual, there is an entire industry devoted to meeting your needs. The primary function of the products offered is to bait or draw birds to a feeding site designed to provide maximum visibility for your viewing pleasure. All the feed products including seeds, seed mixes, suet products, and other specialty products are formulated for their ability to attract birds. Nutritional value is not a consideration. Seeds, seed mixes, and suet products offer at best incidental, supplemental nutrition. Even if it were possible to formulate a seed mix that met all the nutritional requirements of birds, it would fail because birds will preferentially select only the seeds they like, the most preferred being oil-type sunflower seed. Seed preference studies have demonstrated time after time that, oil-type sunflower seed, white proso millet, and Nyjer® are the preferred seeds of most species of birds that frequent feeders.

Seed Mixes

Seed mixes are best viewed as bird candy. The preferred seeds provide a burst of energy but little nutrition. Birds are like children, they eat what they like rather than what is nutritionally best for them.

In selecting seeds or seed mixes you should consider what seeds are in the mix. The cheaper the seed mix the higher the content of filler seeds like corn, milo, oats, wheat and others that the majority of birds find unpalatable. They usually end up on the ground under the feeding station. There is a growing trend in new housing communities to ban bird feeding because of the seed accumulation under the bird feeder and the pests that they attract. Another factor in the pricing of seeds and seed mixes is the grading of the seeds according to quality and any additional processing like cleaning or dehulling the seeds. Premium seed products are cleaner, contain the best grade of seeds, contain a larger proportion of the most palatable seeds like oil-type sunflower seed, and may be dehulled. The reality is that, with the exception of products that contain a higher percentage of the more palatable seeds, none of these added value, higher priced seed mixes make any difference to the birds. They are primarily for human market appeal. You are far better off buying the three individual seeds; oil-type sunflower seed, white proso millet, and Nyjer®. Even the millet is questionable as it attracts alien, invasive house sparrows which should be discouraged.

Bird feed should never be exposed to rain or direct sun both of which will cause deterioration in nutrients.

Suet

Wild bird suet products [http://www.aviancuisine.com/suet-vs-vegetable-fat] are available in a variety of shapes and formulations. The shapes typically include the standard cake, plugs, balls or “berries”, bells, and so on. In addition to plain suet, formulations consist of suet incorporating small amounts of attractants like, berries, fruit, insects, nuts, and seeds to appeal to different wild bird species. While the attractants have a small influence on the kind of wild birds that are attracted to a particular suet product, their real impact is in appealing to human consumers . The primary nutritional component in wild bird suet products is beef fat. It provides energy, which is vital to wild birds. Suet cakes and other suet products attract bark-climbing wild bird species like woodpeckers, nuthatches, and so on. Wild bird suet cakes, like seed and seed mixes may improve survivor rates in the short term and they are very economical. In selecting suet products, the consumer should look for the softest products that will meet the conditions at their feeding station. Softness indicates a relatively low melting temperature. The lower the melting temperature, the easier the product is for wild birds to digest.

Over the past five to ten years there has been a trend among suet processors to develop wild bird suet products with increasingly higher melting temperatures. This is just another marketing scheme that is designed to appeal to human consumers at the expense of the best interests of birds. Do not be fooled. It is in the best interest of wild birds to consume fats that contain the least amount of saturated fats and triglycerides. Wild birds are attracted to fat because of its high energy content. However, birds must expend energy, not only to access and consume fats, but to digest them. The melting temperature of a fat is directly related to its degree of saturation. The higher the saturation, the higher the melting temperature, the more energy necessary to digest it.

Responsible Bird Feeding

The growing awareness that many wild bird populations are in decline has generated a need for a new type of wild bird feeding. One that goes beyond human centered motivations to taking responsibility for the health and welfare of local wild bird populations. The single most important thing we can do as individuals is restore natural habitat on our own property by natural landscaping with native plants that provide both shelter and foods, remove all alien, invasive plants, increasing natural and artificial nesting sites, provide a source of clean fresh water, Take an active, responsible role in managing your habitat and all of the wildlife that live on it; from soil organisms to megafauna. Feeding wild birds responsibly can engender a more wholistic view of their local wild bird populations as well as other local wildlife. If you owner manage property, you are responsible for all the living organisms that occupy it either as transients or permanent residents. You are by definition a habitat/wildlife manager.

Responsible wild bird feeding involves, at a minimum, feeding wild birds nutritionally complete wild bird feed on a year ’round basis, maintaining a source of clean fresh water, using properly designed feeders, keeping feeders and feeding sites clean, Set up a control plan to eliminate alien species like house sparrows and European starlings from your habitat by any means that are ethically acceptable. At the very least destroy their nests and eggs, and keep cats inside . Cats are an introduced alien species and they are proficient predators of birds, small mammals, reptiles, and many other life forms. Capture stray cats that wander onto your property and turn them into the local humane society. Encourage all cat owners to act responsibly by keeping their cats inside for their own safety-coyotes love the taste of cats-and the safety of their potential prey.

Nutritionally Complete Wild Bird Feed

Nutritionally complete wild bird feed products take feeding wild birds to a new level. Nutritionally complete wild bird feed products are complete processed diets formulated to provide birds with all their nutritional needs. Processed diets consist of flours, meals, nutrients, and binders processed into a suitable shape of uniform consistency. They are formulated to meet the minimum nutrient requirements of wild birds based on research by the National Research Council. Veterinarians and animal care professionals recommend processed diets as the main food (50% minimum) for all birds. Since a processed diet is of uniform consistency, birds can not preferentially select what they eat. Nutritionally complete, processed, wild bird diets provide a nutritional safety net for wild birds during periods of poor forage availability. Wild birds with unrestricted access to nutritionally complete, processed, wild bird diets will not experience the nutritional slump associated with winter or other periods of inclement weather that interferes with forage availability. As a result, adult birds will over-winter and initiate nesting activities earlier in the season, will nest more frequently during the season, lay more eggs per nesting, fledge more offspring, and nest later into the season. Over the long run local populations of those species accessing feeding stations will first stabilize and increase.

When feeding nutritionally complete wild bird feed products for the first time, you may encounter reluctance in wild birds to accept the new food. Wild birds are very wary of any change including new and different foods that they may not initially recognize as food. In this case offering oil-type sunflower seed that birds recognize as food along with the processed diet will usually entice them to feed. Once feeding has begun, gradually reduce the oil-type sunflower seed over a period of time. When feeding a nutritionally complete, processed, wild bird diet, it is important to restrict availability of other foods. This particularly applies to seed mixes and suet cakes (bird candies) that are formulated to attract birds for entertainment rather than meeting their nutritional needs. Suet cakes and seed mixes are not nutritionally complete and will dilute the desired effect of complete diets.

Most nutritionally complete, processed, wild bird diets incorporate a binder. A very few use vegetable fat as a binder. From a nutritional point of view, the lower the melting temperature of a fat the easier it is for birds to digest. Vegetable oils are very low in saturated fats and triglycerides so they are preferable to suet or any other binder. It is in the best interests of wild birds to use vegetable fats with the lowest melting temperature that will work in a particular situation or feeder.

Feeding a nutritionally complete diet on a year-round basis expands the food base in an area, thereby improving the overall survival and reproductive rates of many species. In the long run, you will see earlier nesting activity, increased reproduction rates, increased fledging rates, and increased survivorship rates. If you want to make a meaningful contribution to the health and reproduction of local species, you should incorporate nutritionally complete, processed, wild bird diets as a major component of your bird-feeding program.

Conclusion

Suet and seed mixes are of value to wild birds as dietary supplements only. Birds readily recognize seeds as food so seed mixes are best used when establishing a new feeding site . Once birds are feeding at a new site we recommend switching to a nutritionally complete, processed, wild bird diet. Once your feeding site is converted to a nutritionally complete, processed, wild bird diet we recommend feeding seed mixes as a treat in small amounts (no more than can be eaten in one day) on a random, once a week basis.

Nutritionally complete, processed, wild bird diets are a great addition to the struggle to stop population decline in those species that will access them.

Oral Motor and It’s Affect on Feeding Disorders

What is an oral motor deficit? An oral motor deficit affects the musculature of the mouth including the lips, tongue, and jaw. The following are causes of oral motor disorders:

  • Incorrect motor programming of the muscles of the mouth. In other words, the brain sends a message to the muscles of the mouth, but the muscles don’t receive the message or it is misinterpreted. This causes the muscles either to not move at all, or to move in an incorrect fashion that results in mismanagement of food in the mouth.
  • Low muscle tone, meaning the muscles of the lip, tongue, or jaw are weak. Many times children with low muscle tone in the jaw have an open mouth posture. Difficulty with puckering, drinking from a straw, or frequent spilling of liquids when drinking is caused by weak lip strength. Poor tongue strength can result in an inability to stick the tongue out, or move it from side to side. Drooling can also be caused by weakness in the muscles of the mouth. Strengthening these muscles can be very important in improving both feeding deficits and speech intelligibility.

Weakness of the muscles of the lip, tongue, or jaw can have a great impact on the ability to manipulate food in the mouth, including chewing and swallowing. The ability to remove food from silverware and keep food from falling out of the mouth are also difficulties resulting from weak musculature. Having weak muscles can affect a child’s gag reflex, which makes feeding even more unpleasant. Weak musculature can also result in episodes of choking that can affect a child’s willingness to eat altogether, creating a feeding disorder. Muscles that are weak or receiving incorrect information from the brain can cause chewing, swallowing, and manipulating the food within the mouth to be hard work. When children are faced with unsuccessful eating because they gag, choke, or spend long periods of time eating, it reduces the motivation to continue with this activity. Strengthening the muscles and resetting the neural pathways is essential for improving feeding disorders.

So how do we improve oral motor deficits?

  • Undertaking an oral motor program designed to strengthen the lips, jaw, and tongue. The program should utilize a developmental approach that increases in difficulty as the muscles begin to strengthen. Parents should be involved in the oral motor program, and should have an understanding of what the exercises entail. Daily practice is essential in not only improving strength in the lips, tongue, and jaw but in strengthening the neural pathways and improving motor programming.
  • Utilizing food as an effective tool in strengthening the muscles of the mouth. Try blowing a marshmallow across the table to improve lip rounding. Suckers can be used to strengthen lip and tongue muscles. Have a seed spitting contest to improve tongue strength. Strengthen jaw muscles by having the child try to make deep teeth impressions in a slow poke sucker or piece of taffy.

While not all children with feeding disorders have difficulty with the muscles of the mouth, a certain percentage do. Improving the oral motor deficits for these children is essential to the success of correcting feeding disorders. If you recognize any of the symptoms listed above, you are encouraged to seek assistance from a speech/language pathologist or occupational therapist in your area.

The Benefits of Feed in Tariffs

With the ever increasing oil and gas prices, the effects of green house gases increasing the rate of global warming, countries around the world have realized the necessity of adopting environmentally friendly energy practices. Many governments are now promoting and implementing the use of non-polluting renewable energy resources. One such energy program is Feed-In Tariffs.

A Feed-In Tariff is a rate that consumers and businesses pay for electricity which is returned to the electricity grid from a renewable energy source such as solar energy, hydro energy, and wind turbine energy. The purpose of the tariff is to increase the use of renewable and clean energy sources. A power company will buy energy produced from renewable energy sources at rates established by the government. The rates tend to vary among different governments. Currently, there are feed-in tariff regulations for renewable energy in more than 40 countries.

There are many benefits of using feed-in tariff programs. There is a guaranteed rate payment for all electricity that is produced. There is also a guaranteed price for any electricity conveyed onto the electricity grid. As well, feed-in tariff programs encourage the development and implementation of renewable energy sources which reduces dependence on oil and other polluting energy sources. Less green gases are being emitted in the atmosphere which lessens the impact of climate change. It also helps a community secure their own supply of energy such as when they use hydro, solar, or wind, to power homes and businesses. As well, it reduces dependence on unfriendly oil producing countries which helps with improving global and domestic security.

Moving to renewable and environmentally friendly energy sources will also help to create a new ‘green’ industry, which in turn will create millions of jobs. As well, there is more technology driven innovations which is beneficial to everyone. During these difficult economic times, a boost to the economy is very much needed. The amount of money you can save will depend on the amount of electricity that you produce and how you use this electricity in your home or business. For instance, if you can minimize your electricity consumption during the day, you will save a lot of money. By creating an environmentally sustainable as well as a job sustainable future, we are ensuring a bright and healthy future for our children.

The Feed-in Tariff system has proven to be an effective ‘green energy’ program with more countries now implementing the program. Canada, United States, Australia, Germany, Denmark, and Spain are a few of the major countries embracing feed-in tariffs. Although the criteria and measures used in the programs can vary, they are all having a positive impact when it comes to energy conservation, reducing the emission of green house gases, and increasing the use of renewable energy sources. Feed-In Tariffs have been connected with the increased production and use of solar power and wind turbine power. With so much concern about the state of the planet and its natural resources, it is expected that more Feed-In Tariffs programs are going to be established in many more countries around the world. It will become an essential component of slowing climate change and making the planet much healthier.

The School Lunch Program Is Starving

The School Lunch Program

Healthy food makes healthy kids, right? Right, but in order for kids to eat healthy foods, they have to have access to them first. Unfortunately healthy food is hard to come by in today’s school lunch program. School cafeterias are woefully underfunded even with assistance from the Child Nutrition Act. Passed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1963, the Child Nutrition Act is a federal law that stemmed from the National School Lunch Program which is responsible for feeding over 30 million children each day in over 101,000 public and private schools. However, with inflation and cutbacks in school budgets, it only provides schools about $1 per student. Cafeterias simply cannot afford the fresh healthy food that kids need. Sometimes schools have no choice but to take part in the Department of Agriculture’s commodities program for items like meat and cheese. These items come from farmers’ surplus stock and, although it may be a cost effective method for obtaining pricier food items, it can be disastrous as proven in 2008 when one of the largest suppliers of meat for the National School Lunch Program was caught slaughtering ill cows.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

The good news is there is a bill up for vote in the House of Representatives that would add $4.5 billion over the next 10 years to help feed America’s school children. It would be the first non-inflationary increase in funding of the school lunch program by the federal government in 30 years. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed unanimously by the Senate in August, 2010 and was scheduled for a House vote by the end of September. It seemed like a no-brainer especially since the Senate passed the bill by a process called unanimous consent where they agreed to pass it without a voice vote. The bipartisan bill has since been delayed in Congress and will not be voted on by the House until after the November 15 elections. This legislation is near and dear to the heart of First Lady, Michelle Obama, who is looking to Congress to pass this bill as a crucial part of her Let’s Move campaign. Her goal is to end childhood obesity within a generation and allocating more money for healthy food in our kids’ schools will go a long way in meeting that goal.

This bill also addresses the lack of proper funding for low-income students. U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, explained that this legislation “invests heavily in new initiatives designed to automatically enroll more eligible low-income children with our National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs and includes a major expansion of afterschool feeding programs.”

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will also increase nutritional standards in schools by allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to establish nutritional standards. The Department of Agriculture continues to modify and improve the nutrition standards for school meals by including more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and less sugar and processed food. In fact, this legislation could mark the end of the junk food vending machine era in schools.

The Future of the School Lunch Program

Assuming Congress passes the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in November, school kids nationwide will benefit from healthier food options, as cafeterias will have enough funding to buy higher quality food. The $4.5 billion will be distributed over the next 10 years and it should put us on track to lower childhood obesity rates. However, school administrators need further help in order to make good use of these additional funds. Since they are used to buying mostly bulk frozen food, they will need to establish relationships with distributors who also deal with fresh food. Matching local farmers to schools can help bridge the gap between meat and produce, and the hungry kids who will eat it for lunch. Unfortunately, fresh and healthy food tends to cost more than frozen processed food so it’s important for schools to know how to get this food without breaking their budgets. If schools are encouraged (or forced) to remove their junk food vending machines, they need ideas on what types of machines to replace them with. Vending machines that offer healthy items like baked chips, nuts and dried fruit are available as well as drink machines that dispense milk, juice and water as opposed to sugar and chemicals. A few helpful hints, as well as a list of farmers and distributors willing to participate in the school lunch program, will help school administrators make good use of their new funds.

If Congress does not pass this important legislation, it is crucial that we teach our kids which types of foods are healthy and which foods will make them grow big and strong. Schools can also help in this effort by removing junk food vending machines on their own. Replacing them with healthy vending machines is a giant step forward in limiting the sugar and empty calories kids consume when allowed to make their own snack decisions. School administrators and food service workers do the best they can with their budgets but there are ways to improve kids’ health even without $4.5 billion in help from the government.