Vilsack, Harkin & Chambliss welcome Senate passage of Child Nutrition Act

By Agri-Pulse Staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Aug. 5 – Along with senators, Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack welcomed the Senate's unanimous vote Thursday to reauthorize the federal child nutrition programs. “This is a great victory for America's children,” Vilsack said. “This bill advances the Obama administration’s priorities to improve meal quality, strengthen nutrition standards for school meals, reduce barriers and increase access to healthy school meals, promote nutrition education, establish standards for competitive foods, and provide food to needy children during gap periods when the regular nutrition assistance programs are not in operation.”

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) praised the Senate for passing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by unanimous consent. He noted that the bill includes a number of provisions that will expand children’s access to federal child nutrition programs and improve the nutritional quality of foods provided through those programs. Notably, the bill includes a provision long-pushed by Senator Harkin to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish national nutrition standards for all foods sold on school campuses throughout the school day, including vending machine food and beverages. 

Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) who co-authored the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act noted that the bill reauthorizes child nutrition programs through 2015, provides expanded access to existing programs, improves the nutritional quality of meals, and simplifies program rules. He said “Over 30 million lunches are served each day through the National School Lunch Program, and now we are one step closer to making certain school children have better access to healthy options.”

Chambliss pointed out that by expanding afterschool meals, promoting direct certification, and expanding community eligibility for universal meal service, this legislation will ensure that more children who need nutrition assistance will be able to participate in the programs. He addd that “I have been very impressed with industry efforts to work with schools to create consistent voluntary guidelines to reduce caloric intake of food and beverages sold on school campuses. I urge the Secretary of Agriculture to look closely at the success of existing voluntary agreements and use them as a model for future regulations.”

Harkin added that “I am especially pleased that the bill will require common-sense nutrition standards for the foods and beverages sold in schools. With this provision, the bill will help make the healthy choice, the easy choice. This is an important step that will not only improve the health of our children, but also help ensure that we no longer undermine the $11 billion that taxpayers provide annually to reimburse schools for providing nutritious meals.”

The legislation reauthorizes the nation’s major federal child nutrition programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program. The bill provides $4.5 billion in additional funding over the next 10 years – nearly ten times the amount of money provided for the previous child nutrition reauthorization, and the largest new investment in child nutrition programs since their inception.

The Agriculture Committee unanimously passed the bill on March 24 of this year and on May 27 a bipartisan group of 53 senators urged swift passage of the legislation. The bill next must be approved by the House and signed by the President before it becomes law. The current extension expires September 30, 2010.

To read more about the Child Nutrition Act, go to:

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