Thursday, July 15, 2010

First Lady Lauds House For Nutrition Legislation; Calls On Congress For Immediate Action

78 days left until Child Nutrition Reauthorization expires...
This morning, the House Education & Labor Committee passed H.R. 5504, the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act, out of committee with a bipartisan vote of 32-13. From the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama congratulated the Committee and Chair George Miller (D-CA) for their swift action, and called on Congress to pass child nutrition legislation before the end of the year.

"This important legislation will combat hunger and provide millions of schoolchildren with access to healthier meals, a critical step in the battle against childhood obesity," Mrs. Obama said. "I urge both the House and Senate to take their child nutrition bills to the floor and pass them without delay."

The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee, chaired by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark), has already unanimously passed a $4.5 billion nutrition bill that it said is fully funded by budget cuts.

"The President looks forward to signing a final bill this year, so that we can make significant progress in improving the nutrition and health of children across our nation,” Mrs. Obama said.

The House legislation includes sweeping reforms, and significantly increases access to school feeding programs, and removes barriers to child nutrition programs, as well as improves the quality of the meals served. It also implements new school food safety guidelines, and increases the reimbursement rate for school meals for the first time in thirty years. It also, for the first time, would require schools to set nutrition standards for foods served outside the cafeteria, including in vending machines. Download the full bill text [PDF]; a fact sheet is here.

>The new amendments to the bill are here, and the roll call vote will be posted later in the day.

On Monday, Rep. Miller and Sen. Lincoln gave a letter to President Obama, requesting that he ensure that both chambers of Congress understand that child nutrition legislation is a priority.

"With a strong push from you, we can maximize the likelihood of Congress passing, and you signing into law, this critically-needed legislation before the programs expire," Lincoln and Miller wrote, amidst worry on the Hill that other pending legislation will leave no time for the child nutrition legislation to get to floor votes.

Sen. Lincoln today sent her congratulations to Rep. Miller and House Ed & Labor, too.

"I applaud Chairman Miller for his strong leadership in moving the child nutrition reauthorization process forward in the House," Sen. Lincoln said in a statement. "We must not squander this opportunity to make historic improvements to our child nutrition programs that will put us on a path toward ending childhood hunger and reversing the trend of childhood obesity. I urge both chambers to pass child nutrition legislation without delay, and I look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Miller on this important priority.”

The current child nutrition reauthorization expires on September 30.

The first hearing for the bill was held on June 1 (with celeb chef Tom Colicchio joining Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack among the witnesses), and markup began yesterday afternoon.