House and Senate leaders urge President Obama to make child nutrition a priority

By Melissa Coon

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, July 13 – Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and House Education & Labor Committee Chair George Miller (D-CA) sent a letter to President Barack Obama Tuesday urging him to make child nutrition reauthorization a priority before current programs expire on September 30, 2010.

As recent reports have shown, the occurrence of hunger and childhood obesity among our nation’s children is unacceptably high—especially in my home state of Arkansas. We have an historic opportunity to put our country on a path toward ending childhood hunger and reversing the trend of childhood obesity with a strong child nutrition reauthorization. We cannot afford to make American children and families wait any longer for a bill that will make real progress toward ending childhood hunger and obesity. I know that the President shares my goal of addressing this important priority, and I ask him to please join our efforts to ensure that passage of child nutrition legislation is a top legislative priority in the coming months,” said Lincoln.

Lincoln’s “Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act” passed the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously in March and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

House Education & Labor Committee members plan to discuss their version of the legislation, “Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act,” tomorrow, July 14.

In this economy, millions of families rely on the child nutrition programs as a nutritional safety net for their children to ensure they are able to focus and learn in school. Children need healthy meals to be able to grow and thrive in the classroom and in life. If we allow our children’s health to dwindle, if we allow more children to go hungry by not taking swift action with this legislation, we fail our children, their families and the future of this country. We have a real opportunity to make dramatic reforms to help prevent hunger, to improve children’s health and increase access to healthy meals. The health and academic success of an entire generation of children is at stake,” said Miller.

The full text of the letter follows:

July 13, 2010
The Honorable Barack Obama
United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

We write to you today regarding the pending reauthorization process for Federal child nutrition programs that we are currently leading in Congress. The support you have provided along with the First Lady’s passion on this issue has been greatly appreciated. As our process moves forward, it is important to highlight the path ahead and the additional steps that must be taken to ensure a successful legislative outcome. To that end, we respectfully request your assistance in ensuring that a strong reauthorization is delivered to your desk for signature before the programs expire on September 30.

As you know, child nutrition programs were extended for one year last fall. Prior to, and since that time, our respective Committees have worked closely together and with your Administration in order to develop reauthorization legislation that mirrors many of your recommendations to address two of the greatest threats to the health and security of America’s children: hunger and obesity. This year represents our best opportunity to see those efforts enacted into law.

Additionally, since last fall both chambers have been actively engaged in a bipartisan fashion to move forward legislation and maintain political momentum for the reauthorization process. In the House of Representatives, a bipartisan majority of 221 members of Congress sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi in strong support of reauthorizing child nutrition programs this year. In the Senate, a bipartisan majority of 53 senators sent a letter to Senate leadership urging swift passage of the child nutrition bill that was unanimously approved by the Agriculture Committee at the end of March.

Despite strong support and the popularity of child nutrition programs, our respective chambers continue to face challenges to enacting reauthorization legislation, the biggest of which is time. There are precious few legislative work weeks available between now and September 30th. Given these circumstances, your assistance in making this legislation a top priority for your Administration and communicating that priority to the leadership in the House and Senate is absolutely critical to ensuring that both chambers are able to send you a full reauthorization this year.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who has been a forceful advocate for child nutrition within the Administration, put it best when he recently testified before Congress. “The bottom line from my perspective is that I can’t think of anything more important than getting [child nutrition] done this year…If we don’t do this this year, this is not going to get any easier. It’s going to get much, much tougher in the future.” We could not agree with Secretary Vilsack more, and Congress and the Administration must work collectively in order to pass the best bill possible and avoid another extension of current law.

Given the difficult political environment and partisanship within Congress today, child nutrition reauthorization represents one of our best opportunities to enact legislation that enjoys broad bipartisan support. Our children, and their families, deserve nothing less than our strongest leadership to see that bipartisanship passed into law. Through our combined efforts and with a strong push from you, we can maximize the likelihood of Congress passing, and you signing into law, this critically-needed legislation before the programs expire.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to continuing to work with you on this important priority.


Blanche Lincon

George Miller

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