Friday, July 30, 2010

Sen. Lincoln's School Lunch Surge Continues

Child nutrition bill is deficit neutral, Sen. Lincoln says; child hunger and nutrition advocates call for passage of legislation

By Helena Bottemiller

WASHINGTON, DC: On Thursday, standing alongside key lawmakers, child nutrition advocates, and elementary school students dressed as grapes, apples, carrots, and bananas, Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) again called on the Senate to pass the pending child nutrition reauthorization bill, a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative. (Above: Sen. Lincoln and her helpers)

The Capitol Hill press conference was packed as Sens. Dick Lugar (R-IN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Bob Casey (D-PA) joined Sen. Lincoln in urging Senate leadership to get the $4.5 billion Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 to a floor vote. Sen. Lincoln made the same call from the Senate floor on Tuesday and again on Wednesday this week.

Citing alarming childhood obesity and hunger statistics from her home state of Arkansas, which has the second highest rate of childhood obesity in America, the Senator said that the legislation will "change the face of childhood hunger and obesity in this country."

"It's time for us to take those steps," Sen. Lincoln added. She also emphasized the historic nature of the reimbursement rate increase for school meals--the first in over three decades. At just six cents per meal, it's not much, but it is an increase.

"I don't know if that affects you all the way it does me, but it makes me horrified," Sen. Lincoln said. "To think that since 1973 we on the federal level have not increased the reimbursement… I gotta tell you, having been to the grocery store just yesterday, if we were paying today's prices with 1973 dollars, all of us, what would we be making available in our own homes?"

The Senator said the same thing during her early morning appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Thursday. In a politically savvy move, Sen. Lincoln was also quick point out that the Senate bill is deficit neutral.

"The critical investments this bill makes are completely paid for and will not add one cent to the national debt," she said. "For those who are concerned, who join me in being concerned about the debt in this country and what it leaves our children, this does not affect that."

"We have just 21 legislative days left before the current child nutrition program expires on September 30th," said Lincoln. "If we miss this opportunity, ladies and gentlemen, it will be our children who pay the price for our inaction. We will have no excuse and no one to blame but ourselves."

"This bill is bipartisan, completely paid for, and provides common sense solutions to addressing childhood hunger and obesity," added Lincoln. "We simply just need a few hours [on the Senate floor] to get it passed."

Dr. Sandra Hassink, Obesity Committee Chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Chuck Saylors, National PTA President, and Courtney Chea Reeve, Executive Director, Greenbrier Learning Center also spoke at the event. Child hunger and health advocates were out in force:

The American Academy of Pediatrics is a key partner in the Let's Move! campaign, and in her remarks, Dr. Hassink illustrated the seriousness of obesity-related health problems in children with a series of stories about overweight children.

"As a pediatrician who specializes in treating overweight and obese children, I have a special plea for the Senate: Please put me out of a job. I want to come home and go to my empty clinic," said Dr. Hassink.

Though the timing remains highly uncertain, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said earlier this week he wants to bring the bill to the floor before August recess.

Sen. Lincoln's office has compiled a list of statements from child hunger and nutrition advocates in support of the legislation:

Arkansas Center for Health Improvement Joseph W. Thompson, MD, MPH, Arkansas Surgeon General
“For many children across Arkansas and the nation the school breakfast and lunch program keeps them from going hungry. We must continue to meet this critical need, but equally important, we must bring better nutrition into our schools to prevent obesity. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is critical to solving the childhood obesity epidemic and will help our children eat better and lead healthier, more productive lives."

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Christopher W. Hansen, President

"Addressing poor nutrition, physical inactivity and obesity through the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act will help to reduce our children's risk of dying prematurely from cancer. We applaud the bipartisan effort to bring S. 3307, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, to the Senate floor for consideration soon. Overweight and obesity contribute to up to one-fifth of all cancer-related deaths in this country, and being overweight decreases the likelihood of survival for many cancers. Improving the nutritional quality of food available in schools is a critical step to addressing the national health crisis of obesity and physical inactivity."

American Diabetes Association
Christine T. Tobin, RN, CDE, President Health Care & Education

“The American Diabetes Association urges the Senate to swiftly consider the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The current authorization for child nutrition programs expires on September 30 and we do not want to lose all the progress that has been made so far. If current trends continue, one in three children born today will develop diabetes in their lifetime. This overwhelming statistic is due in large part to the childhood obesity epidemic. Action is needed now to promote healthy lifestyles in school, where children spend a large portion of their day."

American Heart Association

Nancy Brown, CEO

"By improving school wellness policies, children will have a greater opportunity to build strong minds and bodies during the school day and reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke. The Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act will ensure that students learn healthy habits that will have long-lasting benefits well beyond their years in school."

American Public Health Association
George C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), Executive Director

“The public health community is counting on Congress to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act before these important child nutrition programs expire at the end of September. The bill would take steps to dramatically improve nutrition and wellness among our nation’s youth by updating national nutrition standards that would remove junk food in schools and requiring local school-based wellness policies, and we urge all members of the Senate to join with Senator Lincoln in urging swift, positive action on this critical public health legislation before the August recess."

Center for Science in the Public Interest
Margo G. Wootan, D.Sc., Director, Nutrition Policy

“Congress has a lot on its plate this legislative session, but it needs to address what's on kids' plates: now! Renewal of the Child Nutrition programs has been delayed for a year. Our children can't wait any longer. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S. 3307) is a much needed step to address child nutrition and obesity. It would remove junk food from school vending machines, increase school lunch reimbursements, and provide more training to help schools serve healthier meals. Unlike the many controversial issues in Washington, this bill is bipartisan, won't add to the deficit, and is popular with voters. It should take no more than a day of the Senate's time. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell need to bring the child nutrition bill to the Senate floor for a vote before they go home for summer recess, and kids go back to schools. A day is not much to ask for our kids' health and well being."

The Child Nutrition Initiative
Erin Campbell, Campaign Manager

“Senator Lincoln’s bipartisan bill is a critical step forward in ensuring that kids have access to the nutritious food they need to improve their health, succeed in school and grow up to be healthy, active adults. With nearly one-third of U.S. kids overweight or obese and many depending on school meals as their most reliable source of food, the Senate must act now to pass this important legislation. Our kids can’t afford to wait."

Feeding America
Vicki Escarra, President and CEO

“The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S. 3307) is a step forward in achieving an end to child hunger. Too many hungry children are not being reached by our current child nutrition programs. This bill would increase access to nutritious food for millions of low-income children – particularly afterschool, in the summer, and over weekends,” said Vicki Escarra, President and CEO, Feeding America

Food Research and Action Center
James Weill, President

“The Food Research and Action Center applauds Senate Agriculture Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) for continuing to push the Child Nutrition Reauthorization process forward. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 makes important investments that will make children’s meals healthier and will expand low-income children’s access to nutritious food, including an expansion of the Afterschool Meal Program to all 50 states and improvements in processes for certification for school meals. A strong and robustly-funded final Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill, with the right mix of funding, is a key step in reaching the President’s goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015 and in reducing childhood obesity. FRAC joins Senator Lincoln in urging the Senate to get the reauthorization process moving on the floor and passing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Hungry children should not have to wait any longer,” said James Weill, President, Food Research and Action Center.

Mission: Readiness
U.S. Army Major General Paul Monroe

--A former head of the California Army National Guard and a member of the national nonprofit Mission: Readiness, composed of more than 150 retired generals and admirals.

“On behalf of retired generals and admirals across the country, I urge the Senate to pass strong bipartisan school nutrition legislation before the August recess. Research shows that up to 40 percent of children’s daily calorie intake occurs at school and that 80 percent of children who were overweight between the ages of 10 to 15 were obese by age 25. Improving school nutrition is a crucial area for reducing child obesity and helping expand the pool of young adults eligible for military service."

The National WIC Association
Rev. Douglas A. Greenaway, President & CEO
"The National WIC Association (NWA) – The education arm and advocacy voice of the 9 million mothers and young children participating in WIC and WIC’s 12,200 service provider agencies – urges the Senate to act now in the interest of our nation’s children and proudly stands with Chairman Lincoln in support of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and the significant steps it takes towards meeting the President’s goal to end hunger by 2015, addressing the nation’s epidemic of childhood overweight and obesity, improving access to WIC for young children, emphasizing the critical importance of breastfeeding promotion and support, providing adequate resources to support breastfeeding peer counseling, requiring regular review of the WIC food packages to meet current dietary science, emphasizing rigorous health outcomes evaluation, and moving WIC towards electronic benefit service delivery for WIC mothers and young children."

Nemours Office of Policy and Advocacy
Debbie I. Chang, MPH Vice President of Policy and Prevention

"Nemours applauds Chairman Lincoln and Ranking Member Chambliss for working together to move this reauthorization forward before these federal nutrition programs expire. We believe we must seize this opportunity to address hunger and nutrition on behalf of our nation’s children, especially our youngest children who increasingly spend time in child care,” said Nemours Office of Policy and Advocacy."

School Nutrition Association
Nancy Rice, President

“School nutrition programs desperately need additional funds from Congress to support ongoing efforts to offer more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products in the lunch line
The First Lady, health professionals, school administrators, parents – everyone - has been talking about the importance of healthy eating to children’s well-being and academic achievement,” said Rice. “After all, what is more important than nourishing the minds and bodies of America’s future generation? Congress cannot afford to go on summer vacation without completing this assignment. The School Nutrition Association and its members commend Chairman Lincoln for her commitment to passing Child Nutrition Reauthorization."

United Fresh Produce Association
Lorelei DiSogra, EdD, RD, Vice President-Nutrition

“United Fresh Produce Association strongly supports “The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” and urges the Senate to pass child nutrition reauthorization.“The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” will make a historic investment in child nutrition programs, including critical funding to increase the reimbursement rate for school lunch so that schools can serve healthier meals including more fresh fruits and vegetables."

*Photo via Sen. Lincoln's office