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Schoolkids deserve more than junk food

By Jamie Oliver, Special to CNN
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Jamie Oliver's food crusade
  • Jamie Oliver: Child Nutrition Bill failed, which means same old unhealthy school lunches
  • Schools serve junk food like chocolate milk, soda and pizza at each meal, he writes
  • 700 groups want this kind of law, he writes. Does Congress not value children's health?
  • Parents should see what kids are eating, Oliver says, and if disgusted, push for healthy food

Editor's note: Chef Jamie Oliver's TV series include "The Naked Chef," "Jamie's Kitchen," "Jamie's School Lunch Project," "Jamie's Great Italian Escape," "Jamie at Home" and the Emmy award-winning "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution." Jamie has inspired people all over the world to cook and care about the food they serve their children. He lives in England with his wife, Jools, daughters Poppy, Daisy and Petal, and son Buddy.

(CNN) -- Your kids deserve better. Because Congress failed to pass the Child Nutrition Bill last week, bad school lunches will remain bad.

While the bill wasn't perfect, it would have created stronger nutritional standards and provided more money for the school lunch program -- adding six cents per lunch for the first time in 30 years. This was the first step on the long ladder to fresh food, and now it's a missed opportunity.

Among other things, this bill would have banned the junk food that is served in schools and competes with the fresh food your kids need. Eating this junk every day will take 10 years off their lives and cost you a fortune -- adding thousands of dollars to the family health care tab.

When Congress returns, members should not only support these new standards but also give people the necessary dollars to get on the path to fresh food. At the moment, $4.5 billion is attached to the bill, which only works out to six cents on the plate -- not much, but better than nothing if it can buy an apple for each child's breakfast or lunch tray.

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Over the last two years, more than 700 advocacy groups have been working to get these important changes written into law. Yet Congress could not bring enough support to pass the bill. Do members not value the health of America's kids?

Since I've been working in America, I've been overwhelmed by the number of people who write to me. More than 600,000 people have signed the Food Revolution petition for better school food. They are really worried about the quality of food their kids are served in school -- the soda, chocolate milk and pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's not just me who thinks we need change.

Parents deserve to know what their kids are being fed at school. If Congress won't put the regulations in place, then Americans are going to have to take things into their own hands.

Here's how you do it:

Drop into school and eat lunch with your child. See for yourself what is being served on the breakfast and lunch trays.

If you don't like what you see, find other parents in your school who are as frustrated and disgusted as you are. Band together and go to your school board and demand change.

Parents deserve to know what their kids are being fed at school.
--Jamie Oliver

Love your lunch ladies. Go visit them and thank them. Let them know you appreciate that they take care of your kids and that you want to help them get better equipment, training and information to make their jobs easier.

Make noise. Send e-mails, meet your school nutrition director, go to PTA meetings, get your kids involved. Take every opportunity to keep school food change front and center.

If this bill doesn't get passed when Congress comes back in November, then it's going to be another five years before we have another shot at fixing these regulations. Five years is too long to wait. Without this legislation, school food will stay in the Dark Ages of nutrition and your kids are going to suffer. They deserve better.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jamie Oliver.