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Senate Agriculture Committee Moves To Improve School Lunches

The Senate Agriculture Committee approved Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln's child nutrition act, entitled the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

A step forward in the efforts to improve national school lunch standards, Senator Lincoln said that the act intends to help the over 30 million children who participate in the National Lunch Program throughout the country and the more than 10 million kids participate in the National School Breakfast Program. Over 60% of these children receive free or reduced meals and depend on the food offered at school for a majority of their nourishment.

In light of these statistics and the growing concern for the state of American children's health, Senator Lincoln and school lunch reform advocates see the new child nutrition legislation as a step in the right direction in addressing the childhood obesity epidemic.

The act was approved unanimously by the Agriculture Committee today and is now headed for debate by the full Senate.

Watch: Senator Lincoln announces the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (March 17th):

What The Act Will Do To Improve School Lunches

If Congress passes this bill, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will take the following steps to better school lunch programs nationally:

  1. Allow the Agriculture Committee to set and monitor uniform standards for school lunches nationally. The bill would also allow them to regulate ALL food sold in schools, including vending machines items.
  2. The legislation will allocate an additional $4.5 billion in funding to school food programs over the next 10 years. However, this amount is about half of what President Obama initially proposed, a point that has spurred criticism from some food activists, including Slow Food Blog, U.S.A.
  3. The enforcement of these standards will be a collaborative effort with food and beverage distribution companies and public health officials. The American Beverage Association released a statement endorsing the act, asserting that they are "committed to the health and wellness of its consumers, including American children".
  4. The bill would provide a 6 percent increase in reimbursements to schools for children in need of free or low-cost lunches. This is an alteration of the reimbursement standards that were originally established nearly 40 years ago.
  5. The bill will also fund the creation and promotion of farm-to-school programs and school gardens to provide fresh produce for school lunches.

Learn More:

  • Congress Takes Aim at Unhealthy School Lunches (NY Times)
  • The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry's statement
  • Senator Blanche Lincoln's statement

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