Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Safe Food. Healthy Kids.

House Passes Child Nutrition Legislation

With a vote of 264 yays, and 157 nays the House passed the $4.5 billion child nutrition legislation that will improve the quality of meals that children receive at school.

We can't believe the 157 who voted against this bill.  Who doesn't want America's kids eating healthy food?

We share in the First Lady's comments on the passage of the bill.

"I am so thrilled that the House of Representatives has passed “The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” – a groundbreaking piece of bipartisan legislation that will significantly improve the quality of meals that children receive at school and will play an integral role in our efforts to combat childhood obesity."

The First Lady has been working feverishly to ensure that America's kids eat properly.

"Over  the past two years, I have had the privilege of speaking with parents, educators, governors and mayors, medical professionals, community and business leaders, and students all across the country – all of whom are determined to ensure that our children have access to the nutritious food they need to learn and grow and fulfill their potential."

Again we ask, who doesn't want that?

"This is an historic victory for our nation's youngsters", said U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak.

"This legislation will allow USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children."

The USDA will now begin to implement the following provisions under the legislation.

1. Upgrading nutritional standards for school meals by increasing the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches by 6 cents for districts who comply with federal nutrition standards. This is the first real reimbursement rate increase in over 30 years.

2. Improving the nutritional quality of all food in schools by providing USDA with the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools, including in vending machines, the “a la carte” lunch lines, and school stores.

3. Increases the number of eligible children enrolled in the school meals programs by using Medicaid data to directly certify children who meet income requirements without requiring individual applications connecting approximately 115,000 new students to the school meals program.

4. Enhances universal meal access for eligible children in high poverty communities by eliminating paper applications and using census data to determine school wide income eligibility.

5. Provides more meals for at-risk children nationwide by allowing Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) providers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to be reimbursed for providing a meal to at-risk children after school paving the way for an additional 21 million meals to children annually.

6. Empowering parents by requiring schools to make information more readily available to parents about the nutritional quality of school meals, as well as the results of any audits.

7. Improving the quality of foods supplied to schools by building on and further advancing the work USDA has been doing to improve the nutritional quality of the commodities that schools get from USDA and use in their lunch and breakfast programs.

8. Improving WIC by making it easier for children to get recertified as eligible for the program, requiring greater use of EBT technology (debit cards), and expanding support for breastfeeding.

Earlier this week Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act to protect our nation’s food supply.  The legislation ensures more frequent inspections of food manufacturing facilities and will require these facilities to take preventative actions to reduce the risks of outbreaks and foodborne illness.

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