Senators & school kids join forces to get Child Nutrition programs reauthorized
By Jon H. Harsch
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
Washington, July 29 – Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) told elementary school children Thursday they're needed to help convince the Senate to reauthorize the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.” Otherwise, the bill to reauthorize the school meals programs and other federal child nutrition programs will expire Sept. 30. Lincoln said that “we should know by the end of business today” whether the bill can be taken up this week by the full Senate without the objections which continue to stall other pending legislation.
Lincoln said that the bill “will change the face of childhood hunger and obesity in this country . . . it will put us on the path to improving the health of the next generation of Americans.” She pointed out that the bill will increase the federal reimbursement rate for school meals “for the first time since 1973” and streamlines procedures to make it easier for eligible children to participate. Noting that the bill is “fully paid for and will not add one cent to the national debt” she said “if we miss this opportunity, it will be our children who pay the price for our inaction.”
Despite strong bipartisan support for the bill which was passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously in March, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) warned in Thursday's press conference which brought the senators and school children together that “As a former chairman of the Senate Ag Committee, I know the difficulties in moving nutrition legislation.” But he noted that “This bill was approved by the committee in March and there has been no significant opposition since then.” He said he hopes the Senate will pass the bill next week and that the House will pass the bill soon after it returns from the August recess September.
One potential obstacle is that Lincoln's bill seeks an additional $4.5 billion for nutrition programs over the next ten years compared with current spending levels. Both farm and environmental groups have raised concern over Lincoln's plan to offset her bill's cost with savings from USDA's EQIP conservation program. Lincoln told Agri-Pulse that if there's a problem with EQIP, then she's ready to “work to find an offset that doesn't upset people.” She also explained that regarding EQIP, “all we really did was lock in a steady increase for EQIP and use the money that wasn't being used.”
For coverage of the House Education & Labor Committee's bipartisan 32-13 vote July 15 for the House's companion “Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act,” go to: www.agri-pulse.com/20100715H_Child_Nutrition_Vote.asp
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