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Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act the first time that the fed gov has increased funding for the programs in 30 years.

Posted by on Aug. 7, 2010 at 2:09 AM
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Senate passes child nutrition bill

The Senate passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act on Thursday, a bill that provides an additional $4.5 billion over 10 years to federal child nutrition programs including school lunch. If signed into law, it will be the first time that the federal government has increased funding for the programs in 30 years.

The bill was bipartisan and fully paid for. But advocates, led by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), had battled to find time for a vote in an intensely busy legislative period. On Monday, Michelle Obama, a strong proponent of school lunch reform, called for the Senate to act in an op-ed in The Washington Post. In the end, the bill was passed through a process known as unanimous consent, where all 100 senators agreed to pass the bill without a voice vote.

Unanimous consent is not often employed for high-profile and high-cost bills.

"The Senate bill changes the school food landscape in ways that are all positive," said Michael F. Jacobson, the executive director of Center for Science in the Public Interest, a public health advocacy group in Washington. "Put simply, it will get junk food out of, and put more healthy food into, America's schools. Chairman Blanche Lincoln and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss deserve credit for forging a bipartisan agreement on the bill and for fighting to secure a vote despite a crowded Senate schedule."

A range of advocates including the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the United Fresh Produce Association also expressed support.

The bill allocates $1.2 billion to increase the number of children receiving food, an effort to meet President Obama's pledge to end childhood hunger by 2015. The remaining $3.2 billion would be used to improve the quality of school meals. This includes an extra 6 cents per meal per student for schools that meet new, stricter nutrition standards and funding for schools to establish school gardens and to source local foods.

The bill also would mandate that the Department of Agriculture develop nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, not just what is served in the lunch line. Standards for so-called "competitive foods," which have been controversial in previous years. Some school districts argued that the money earned from vending machines and a la carte lines helped to support sports and arts programs. Food companies were concerned about losing access to millions of schoolchildren.

The House of Representatives would need to pass its version of the bill in time for President Obama to sign the legislation before Sept. 30, when it is set to expire, or the programs risk losing the newly found funding. Nancy Pelosi has called the chamber back to Washington next week to finish work on a $26 billion plan to prevent the layoffs of tens of thousands of teachers and other public workers. The House is not expected, however, to take up the child nutrition bill until after the August recess.

Update: Rep. George Miller (D -- Calif.), the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee that drafted the House's child nutrition legislation, released a statement commending the Senate for its "important step forward." He did not announce a timeline for a vote in the lower chamber.

In a statement released this afternoon, Michelle Obama commended the the Senate for its leadership. "While childhood obesity cannot be solved overnight, with everyone working together, there's no question that it can be solved -- and today's vote moves us one step closer to reaching that goal," she said.

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  August 5, 2010; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Food Politics  | Tags: Jane Black, Michelle Obama, school lunch



How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong, because sometime in life you will have been one or all of these. George Washington Carver

by on Aug. 7, 2010 at 2:09 AM
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by Member on Aug. 7, 2010 at 2:12 AM
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