WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today issued the following statement regarding House passage of S. 3307 "The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act."
"This is an historic victory for our nation's youngsters. This legislation will allow USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children.
"When President Obama first asked me to be the Secretary of Agriculture, he identified healthier school meals as one my top priorities and together with First Lady Michelle Obama's Lets Move! initiative, this administration has made it a goal to end childhood obesity within in a generation
"Our national security, economic competitiveness and health and wellness of our children will improve as a result of the action Congress took today."
"I applaud Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer, Chairman Miller, and Chairwoman DeLauro for their leadership on this legislation."
The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act includes the following provisions which USDA will begin implementing after President Obama signs the legislation:
- Upgrading nutritional standards for school meals by increasing the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches by 6 cents for districts who comply with federal nutrition standards. This is the first real reimbursement rate increase in over 30 years.
- Improving the nutritional quality of all food in schools by providing USDA with the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools, including in vending machines, the "a la carte" lunch lines, and school stores.
- Increases the number of eligible children enrolled in the school meals programs by using Medicaid data to directly certify children who meet income requirements without requiring individual applications connecting approximately 115,000 new students to the school meals program.
- Enhances universal meal access for eligible children in high poverty communities by eliminating paper applications and using census data to determine school wide income eligibility.
- Provides more meals for at-risk children nationwide by allowing Child and Adult Care Food Program providers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to be reimbursed for providing a meal to at-risk children after school paving the way for an additional 21 million meals to children annually.
- Empowering parents by requiring schools to make information more readily available to parents about the nutritional quality of school meals, as well as the results of any audits.
- Improving the quality of foods supplied to schools by building on and further advancing the work USDA has been doing to improve the nutritional quality of the commodities that schools get from USDA and use in their lunch and breakfast programs.
- Improving WIC by making it easier for children to get recertified as eligible for the program, requiring greater use of EBT technology (debit cards), and expanding support for breastfeeding.