The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, legislation to reauthorize federal child nutrition programs through 2015, was passed unanimously in the Senate Thursday at a crucial time for the programs as they are set to expire on Sept. 30. The Senate Ag Committee unanimously approved the bill earlier this year, and Chairman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., says the act will put the U.S. on a path toward improving the health of the next generation of Americans by providing common-sense solutions to tackling childhood hunger and obesity.
Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., co-authored the measure and says the U.S. is now one step closer to making certain school children have better access to healthy options.
The bill calls for over $3 billion to improve the nutritional quality of school meals. It also gives USDA the authority to regulate all foods on school campuses, which goes beyond their existing authority to regulate only meals served through the National School Lunch Program.
First Lady Michelle Obama said she was thrilled with the Senate's passage of the Child Nutrition bill. She says it's a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will help provide healthier meals to children across the country.
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack called it a great victory for America's children, adding that the bill advances the Obama Administration's priorities to improve meal quality, strengthen nutrition standards for school meals, reduce barriers and increase access to health school meals, promote nutrition education, establish standards for competitive foods and provide food to needy children during periods when regular nutrition assistance programs aren't in operation.
Mrs. Obama and Secretary Vilsack both commended the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Ag Committee leaders Lincoln and Chambliss and thanked them for their work on the legislation. Now the House of Representatives must approve the bill and then pass it on to the President to sign before it becomes law. Vilsack urged Congress to continue to move the bill forward as quickly as possible.