07/24/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

It's Time to Change School Lunch

This past week was nuts--a sustainable food activist's dream come true.

Tuesday, a few hours after I put up my grumpy post about Obama not mentioning food in his health care talks, he proved me wrong by getting up in front of the AMA and saying that junk food is causing obesity and obesity causes disease and resulting medical costs: "That's a lesson Michelle and I have tried to instill in our daughters with the White House vegetable garden that Michelle planted. And that's a lesson that we should work with local school districts to incorporate into their school lunch programs." Bingo!

Wednesday, Michelle got in on the action, harvesting lettuce and peas in the White House garden, talking about food and wellness, telling the press that "these are issues that I care deeply about, especially when they affect America's children." Hello!
Both of them mentioned the connection between food and health, and both mentioned kids. No accident, since this year, the Child Nutrition Act, which is the bill that governs the National School Lunch Program, is up for reauthorization. It's making its way through Congress as I write this--and for the first time in a while I have the sense that the President knows it exists.

The National School Lunch Program provides a meal to 30 million children every school day. Right now it is a sad mirror of the broken food system outside the school walls. It's a fast food mart masquerading as a school cafeteria--I've been kind of horrified to learn what they're serving there, and to learn that they're using the peddling of crappy chicken nuggets, brand name pizza, and soda to help balance school budgets.

If it is, as the Prez insists, time for change, let's do something about it; we can do better.

By giving schools the resources to serve real food, we can teach 30 million children healthy eating habits that will last throughout their lives. That's a major down payment on health care reform. By providing 30 million children with locally grown fruits and vegetables, we can dramatically reshape the way this country grows and gets its food. By raising a generation of children on real food, we can build a strong foundation for their health, for our economy's health and for America's future prosperity.

That's why a group of us are organizing a National Eat-In for Labor Day, Sept. 7, 2009. On that day, people in communities across America will gather with their neighbors for public potlucks that send a clear message to our nation's leaders: It's time to provide America's children with real food at school.

To get the whole country to sit down to share a meal together, we're going to need the help of all kinds of people: parents, teachers, community leaders, kids and people who've never done anything like this before. We're asking everyone to pitch in, starting today--because with the President calling for health care reform and the First Lady planting a garden on the White House Lawn, we've got an opening to pass legislation that grants 30 million children the freedom to grow up healthy.

Check it out.