25 March 2010

Senate committee unanimously clears Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

The bipartisan Senate Agriculture Committee led by Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., unanimously passed the $4.5 billion Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act on Wednesday. The bill now moves on to the full Senate for a vote slated for later this year.

“By a unanimous bipartisan vote the Senate Agriculture Committee took a monumental step forward today, making a record investment in our child nutrition programs,” Lincoln said in a news release.

The bill would provide $4.5 billion in additional funding to nutrition programs over the next 10 years and will also target the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic by setting new nutritional standards for school lunch programs.

The legislation not only increases the number of children eligible for free or reduced cost meals but it incentivizes school's implementation of the new nutritional standards created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Each school that adopts the suggested standards will receive an additional 6 cents per meal from the federal government.

An important factor when considering that school lunch programs are notorious in offering a plethora of unhealthy choices with meals high in fat, cholesterol and sodium.

In a study conducted by the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, children who bought school lunches were more likely to be overweight, have higher levels of bad cholesterol and consume more sugary drinks than their fellow classmates who ate home prepared meals.

Although improving government standards on school fare is welcomed, it will most likely not go far enough in battling our nation’s ongoing struggle with childhood obesity. Ultimately it is up to parents and local school officials to ensure that our children are eating nutritious meals that will provide them with a long and fruitful life.

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