WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Healthy,
Hunger-Free Kids Act by a vote of 264 to 157 the afternoon of Dec. 2,
clearing the way for the government to increase the availability of fruits and
vegetables in schools servicing more than 31 million children.
The $4.5 billion bill, which had already passed the Senate in August,
reauthorizes major federal child nutrition programs administered by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, including the National School Lunch Program, the
School Breakfast Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for
Women, Infants & Children, the Child & Adult Care Food Program and the
Summer Food Service Program.
With time running out on the lame-duck session, the House agreed to pass
the Senate version of the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization, but not after
disputes rose about funding of the Senate bill.
The Senate legislation is partially paid for by eliminating a $2.2 billion
temporary increase to the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, but
House Democrats agreed to vote for the bill after securing assurances that the
White House would replace the offsets before the SNAP cuts go into effect.
The produce industry joined other groups in praising the House for acting on
the bill in the waning days of the lame-duck session. The bill now goes to
President Obama for his signature.
"This historic legislation is a huge victory for children, their families and
schools across America -- and a victory for fruits and vegetables and public
health," Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health at the United
Fresh Produce Association, said after the House vote. “For the first time in
more than 30 years, Congress is increasing the federal reimbursement rate for
school lunch by $.06 per meal, specifically making possible the serving of
more fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” she said.
“The programs included in child nutrition reauthorization will improve
children's health by making fruits and vegetables more available for our
nation's youth by setting nutritional standards for food sold outside school
meals and by improving the nutrition of food in schools,” said Bryan
Silbermann, president of the Produce Marketing Association.
“Once this bill goes into effect, children will receive a consistent message
about healthy food choices whether they are eating in the cafeteria, at the a la
carte lunch line or grabbing a quick snack from a vending machine,” said
Elizabeth Pivonka, president and chief executive officer of the Produce for
Better Health Foundation. “This will have a real impact on the health of our
Nutrition advocates Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)
praised a provision in S. 3307 that requires the U.S. Department of
Agriculture to propose science-based school nutrition standards for all foods
sold in schools, including vending machines, snack bars and school stores,
within one year after enactment. USDA also is required to update the school
nutrition standards after the publication of the latest Dietary Guidelines for
“House passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act moves us one step
closer to requiring common-sense nutrition standards for the foods and
beverages sold in schools,” Sen. Harkin said.
Outgoing Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) said
that the bill comes as Americans are facing financial troubles and a rising
obesity epidemic. “Because of this bill, an additional 29 million meals a year
will be served through after-school programs, touching the lives of millions
of Americans who are working hard to make ends meet during tough
economic times,” she said.
Sen. Lincoln, who lost her reelection bid Nov. 2, said that the bill sets the first
non-inflationary increase in the federal reimbursement rate for school lunch
programs since 1973 and takes a step toward addressing the obesity
epidemic by establishing national nutrition standards.