Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) are teaming up on legislation aimed at helping teach young students about healthy eating. The measure, which the senators plan to introduce today, would offer grants to local education agencies to fund projects that include hiring full-time nutritional educators. Booker said in a statement that a lack of access to healthy food, especially in underserved communities, is frequently a detriment to academic performance.
Programs backed by grant funding under the bill would be required to incorporate hands-on activities for students like setting up school gardens, taste testing and farm-to-school efforts. The legislation would prioritize schools in neighborhoods with high rates of childhood diet-related illnesses or where 40 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
Kumar Chandran, policy director at FoodCorps, said the measure would help more kids "know what healthy food is, care where it comes from and eat it every day." The plan is also backed by the American Heart Association, the National Farm to School Network and other school and nutrition groups.
The backdrop: The bipartisan effort comes as the Agriculture Department is moving to chip away at school nutrition standards and crack down on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, including a rule that would cause some 982,000 low-income students to lose their automatic access to free school meals.