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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

President Signs Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

President Obama with Harriett Tubman Elementary student at signing of Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
It was a joyous occasion at Washington's Harriett Tubman Elementary School in Northwest DC on a cold and blustery school morning that saw many parents hurrying their kids off wrapped in scarfs, hats and gloves and plenty of backpacks.

On this special day, the kids were in for a special treat.  Times two.

President Obama is coming to their school for a special visit.

"This is monumental", said the school's principal Harry Hughes.  It's monumental for the whole community to be a part of history.   The kids are boiling over with excitement."

The president is there to sign the Hunger-Free Kids Act which means kids across the country, including the pre-K to fifth grade students at Tubman Elementary, will have better food menu choices during their busy days at school.

Already, the school has made changes.

"We're seeing less packaged foods", said Dr. Amanda Alexander, Superintendent of the city's Cluster 3 schools.  "We're seeing less greasy foods and more vegetables and freshly made foods, lean meats, and salads."

The school, with roughly 500 students, has worked with White House chefs as part of the Chefs Move to School initiative and participated in a recent White House garden harvest event.

"What the kids have learned in the Chefs Move to School initiative has helped them make better food choices", added principal Hughes.
 
The signing was made possible by members of Congress as well as the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama who championed the cause to see that every child is eating healthier, nutritious meals in hopes ridding the national crisis of childhood obesity. 

"At a very basic level, this act is about doing what’s right for our children.  Right now, across the country, too many kids don’t have access to school meals", said Mrs. Obama.  And often, the food that’s being offered isn’t as healthy or as nutritious as it should be.   That’s part of the reason why one in three children in America today are either overweight or obese.

While the president has surely been met with opposition on this week's current legislative efforts, the passing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids act was not one of them.

"I also want to echo my husband’s thanks to leaders and members of Congress, many of whom are on the stage, many of whom are not and are down here, and you all have done just a tremendous thing in making this day possible.  As he said, this was truly a bipartisan effort, with passionate supporters from both parties putting in late nights and long weekends, working around the clock to make sure that this bill got passed, because while we may sometimes have our differences, we can all agree that in the United States of America, no child should go to school hungry."

Attending the signing was David Beckmann.  Beckmann is president of Bread For the World, a collective Christian voice urging members of Congress to help end hunger.   He called the signing of bill "the right thing to do", but warns that while there are those who have little access to healthy foods, there are many more who are without access to food altogether.

"One in four kids in America's households are without food", said Beckmann.   

He is hoping the Obama administration will take up the cause to help end hunger.

"The talk has been about obesity, but not too much about hunger", explained Beckmann.

Perhaps that will be upcoming on the president's agenda, one that also needs more of a national spotlight.

But for now, the focus was on improving the quality of school breakfasts, lunches and other foods sold in schools while also strengthening nutrition programs that serve young children, including WIC and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. 

"Even in times of discord", expressed Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, "America has always had a little red school house.  Today is a joyous one.  We are giving kids fuel for learning in school houses across the nation:  Good food.  And good food equals love."

"Children will know that they are loved."  

Related
Changes in the school menu
What folks are saying

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