Child Nutrition Act signed into law

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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WASHINGTON – The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has been signed into law by the president. A priority of the First Lady, the bill reauthorizes child nutrition programs for five years and includes $4.5 billion in new programs over 10 years, according to the American Meat Institute.

"Congratulations to First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and to the bi-partisan support in the Congress to pass the Healthy, Hunger Free Children Act," said Mike Huckabee, Governor of Arkansas 1996-2007. "By passing a bill that addresses the nutritional quality of school lunches, an important step is being taken to give children choices that will make them healthier and more productive."

Among other things, the bill will give the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods regularly sold in schools during the school day, including vending machines, the "a la carte" lunch lines and school stores. The legislation also provides additional funding to schools that meet updated nutritional standards for federally-subsidized lunches.

Specifically, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 authorizes funding for federal school-meal and child-nutrition programs and increases access to healthy food for low-income children. The bill that reauthorizes these programs is often referred to by shorthand as the child nutrition reauthorization bill. This particular bill reauthorizes child nutrition programs for five years and includes $4.5 billion in new funding for these programs over 10 years.

Many programs featured in the Act do not have an expiration date, but Congress is periodically required to review and reauthorize funding. This reauthorization presents an important opportunity to strengthen programs to address more effectively the needs of our nation’s children and young adults.

The Act intends to improve nutrition and focuses on reducing childhood obesity. It gives USDA the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods regularly sold in schools during the school day, including vending machines, the "a la carte" lunch lines, and school stores. It also provides additional funding to schools that meet updated nutritional standards for federally-subsidized lunches. This is the first real reimbursement rate increase in more than 30 years.

Proponents add the Act helps communities establish local farm-to-school networks, create school gardens and ensures that more local foods are used in the school setting. It also builds on USDA work to improve nutritional quality of commodity foods that schools receive from USDA and use in their breakfast and lunch programs.

It sets basic standards for school wellness policies including goals for nutrition promotion and education and physical activity, while still permitting local flexibility to tailor the policies to their particular needs. The Act promotes nutrition and wellness in child care settings through the federally-subsidized Child and Adult Care Food Program. It expands USDA authority to support meals served to at-risk children in afterschool programs.

The Act also:

  • Requires school districts to be audited every three years to improve compliance with nutritional standards.
  • Requires schools to make information more readily available to parents about the nutritional quality of meals.
  • Includes provisions to ensure the safety of school foods like improving recall procedures and extending hazard analysis and food-safety requirements for school meals throughout the campus.
  • Provides training and technical assistance for school food service providers.

USDA will work with states, school districts and neighborhoods to implement the provisions of the bill and Americans will start to see changes in their communities over time, the White House claims.

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