House passes Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives Thursday passed S. 3307, The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. The legislation, passed unanimously by the Senate in August, makes the largest investment in child nutrition programs since their inception.

“This is an historic victory for our nation’s youngsters,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “This legislation will allow U.S.D.A., 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.”

Many within the food industry greeted passage of the legislation with enthusiasm.

“We applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for approving The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act as it contains important policy changes that lay the groundwork for the modernization of the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, a long-standing initiative that helps provide healthy, nutritious foods to more than 9 million women and children every year,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and chief executive officer of the Food Marketing Institute. “F.M.I. has long supported the transition of the WIC program away from paper coupons to one supported by electronic benefits transfer (E.B.T.) technology as it will increase the efficiency of the program for both WIC-eligible mothers and grocers across the nation. Modernization of the WIC program allows participants greater purchasing flexibility, improves efficiency for retailers and moms, ensures our customers continue to have a pleasant experience in our grocery stores and reduces the stigma associated with presenting a paper coupon for payment. We urge President Obama to sign this important legislation as soon as possible.”

Pamela G. Bailey, president and c.e.o. of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said, “We applaud the House for passing The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act — this crucial legislation will help feed many more children through school lunch and breakfast programs and increase the number of healthy choices in the cafeteria. ... The food and beverage industry believes the school environment is a special environment and that the school cafeteria line can be on the front lines of feeding children while ending childhood obesity within a generation.”

Lee Sanders, vice-president for government relations and public affairs at the American Bakers Association, added, “The bill will increase access to the school meal programs for children in need and will provide a variety of healthy food options in school cafeterias. Additionally, the bill provides authority to the Secretary of Agriculture to set science-based standards for foods sold in schools through regulatory rulemaking and following the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

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