“It is utter folly from the point of view of learning to have a compulsory school law which compels children in that weak physical and mental state which results from poverty to drag themselves to school and to sit at their desks day in and day out for several years learning little or nothing.” Poverty Robert Hunter, 1904 It has been over 100 years since Robert Hunter’s book focused our nation’s attention on the plight of children living in poverty. He convincingly wrote that poverty was a social justice concern that created a drag on all of society. Hunter’s book has been credited with influencing several local school feeding initiatives that emerged in the early 1900’s. Legislators became more aware of the insidious impacts of poor child nutrition during World War II, when U.S. Surgeon General Thomas Parran warned Congress that poor childhood nutrition correlated with poor soldiers. The National School Lunch Act passed in 1946 with a goal of providing states with aid to benefit children, schools and agriculture of the country as a whole. The scope of school food services was expanded with the Child Nutrition Act (CNA) of 1966, and the legislation included a powerful declaration of purpose: In recognition of the demonstrated relationship between food and good nutrition and the capacity of children to develop and learn…these efforts shall be extended… to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation's children, and to encourage the domestic consumption of agricultural and other foods, by assisting States, through grants-in-aid and other means, to meet more effectively the nutritional needs of our children. We have come a long way since 1966. Sometimes I have lunch with my kids at their Minneapolis public school. Seventy-eight percent of students there qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, and all the students have the opportunity to receive free breakfast. Food service personnel do an amazing job stretching available funding to meet these needs. Yet we still have so far to go. Like many other schools around the country, my children’s school lacks a kitchen and must rely heavily on highly processed and prepared foods. Despite the growing volume of evidence that suggests the health and educational benefits of good nutrition, fresh produce is the exception rather than the norm. Perhaps just as important for child nutrition is the food environment in the greater community. My south Minneapolis neighborhood has made important strides in the past few years, but it is still far easier to eat calorie-dense prepared foods than it is to find fresh fruits and vegetables. The local hospital has a McDonald’s on site, a powerful demonstration of the societal disconnect between health and diet. Americans thrive on choice, but too many barriers prevent families from making healthy food choices. Opportunities to tweak the major policies that drive the food system are rare. The Child Nutrition Act was last reauthorized in 2004. The scheduled reauthorization didn't happen in 2009—only a continuing resolution maintains the current legislation until this October. This is the legislation that sets funding levels and policies for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (better known as WIC) as well as school feeding programs. The other major federal food assistance program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) gets authorized with the Farm Bill, which is scheduled for reauthorization in 2013. Sometime in the next several weeks, Congress is expected to debate CNA. How can this legislation better achieve its stated goal of “safeguarding the health and well-being of the Nation’s children?” To help answer this question, we asked several fellows and other experts to explore various aspects of getting healthier foods to kids. Alethia Carr, the director of the Bureau of Family, Maternal and Child Health at the Michigan Department of Community Health, provides us with a WIC and SNAP 101 and Rod Leonard, Executive Director of the Community Nutrition Institute gives us a brief history of WIC’s formation. Debra Eschmeyer, Communications and Outreach Director of the National Farm to School Network tells us the “state of our nation’s school lunch,” and Arnell Hinkle, Executive Director of California Adolescent Nutrition and Fitness provides a policy brief on school snack programs. We also cover opportunities such as encouraging healthier foods in corner stores and points of intersection with the anti-hunger movement. Finally, we debut two short videos promoting the efforts of the One Tray campaign to “nourish the nation one tray at a time.” Food and Society fellow Ann Cooper often says that school lunch is the “social justice issue of our time”. Research continues to support this assertion that unhealthy food environments are detrimental to the long-term health and educational success of children. Each dollar well spent on our children can provide enormous returns. So, what are we willing to do in order to support healthy kids?