By Jon H. Harsch
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
Washington, Dec. 13 – With full presidential fanfare, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law Monday, surrounded not only by congressional leaders and Cabinet members including Agriculture Sec. Vilsack, but also students and teachers at a Washington, DC elementary school. Since the First Lady, standing at his side for the signing ceremony, has been a determined champion of the bill, Obama said that along with being proud of this action to improve the quality and accessibility of school meals, if the bill hadn't passed this year, “I would be sleeping on the couch.”
Pointing to studies showing one-third of American school children today are either overweight or obese, Obama said that “This act is about doing what is right for our children.” He also said it's right for the country as a whole because “The countries that succeed in the 21st century will be the ones that have the best prepared, the best educated workforce.”
Agriculture Sec. Vilsack commented that “Today is a great day for kids throughout our country as they will soon have healthier, and more nutritious food in their schools. As we continue to focus on the twin issues of childhood obesity and hunger, we will increase access to good, quality meals in school cafeterias so the nutritional needs of our youngsters are better met. The President and First Lady have advocated strongly for passing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, and, this bill, along with the resources and the powers provided under it, are going to allow USDA to be much more effective and aggressive in responding to obesity and hunger challenges for America’s kids.”
The bill's main Senate Champion, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) said “Today we made an historic investment in our children that will last a lifetime. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act puts us on a path toward improving the health of the next generation of Americans, providing common-sense solutions to tackling childhood hunger and obesity. This bill ensures that our children will receive healthier, more nutritious meals and removes the red tape that prevents so many from participating in nutrition programs. Because of this bill, an additional 29 million meals a year will be served through after-school programs, touching the lives of millions of Americans who are working hard to make ends meet during tough economic times.”
Lincoln thanked First Lady Michelle Obama for her work in focusing national attention on childhood hunger and obesity and said the new law “will serve as the legislative cornerstone of her 'Let’s Move' campaign.”
The bipartisan legislation reauthorizes federal child nutrition programs and makes the largest investment in the programs since their inception, at a cost of $4.5 billion over 10 years. It provides for the first non-inflationary increase in the federal reimbursement rate for school lunch programs since 1973 – an increase of six cents per meal. It addresses the epidemic of childhood obesity by establishing national nutrition standards for all foods sold on school campuses throughout the school day, including vending machine snack foods and beverages.
For details on provisions in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, go to: http://ag.senate.gov/site/legislation.html
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