Which School Lunch Bill Is Best?

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REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Congress may decide this week between two bills aimed at improving school lunch nutrition. Everyone from Alice Waters to Jamie Oliver to Michelle Obama has gotten on the school-lunch bandwagon — a key target in the battle against child obesity — and who could disagree?

One new bill, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which has passed the Senate, would set national dietary guidelines for any food or drink sold in schools. It would increase funding per meal by $.06 so that fresh produce could be included with more frequency. And it would provide nutritional training for people working in school lunch programs. (More on Time.com: New at the School Fete: The Possum Throwing Contest!)

The House’s version of the bill is more generous by an order of about $3 billion and doesn’t suggest appropriating funding from the food stamp program, as the Senate’s version proposes to do. Though it passed a committee vote, it has to pass a full vote and then return to the Senate.

The only problem is, the Senate, as we’ve mentioned before, doesn’t have time for another vote this session. If the House passes its own version, it won’t get to the Senate until next session. Along with all of us awaiting food safety reform, the school children of America might not get their regulation until 2011. (More on Time.com: Profiling Student Cheaters: Are They Psychopaths?)

The House could pass the Senate’s version, however, even though it offers less. According to a New York Times op-ed Thursday:

While the bill is not perfect, its nutrition standards would help combat childhood obesity and ensure that youngsters eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The 6 cents-per-meal increase in reimbursements to schools is basically the same as the proposed House formula and means $300 million extra per year for schools. It would be the first noninflation-related increase in the reimbursement rate since 1973.

The House is expected to vote within the week.

More on Time.com:

Why Americans Are Fat: We Literally See More Food as Less

Study: America Is Officially the Fattest Developed Country in the World

Health.com: Feel-Good Foods