WASHINGTON — More low-income children are benefiting from school meal programs thanks to the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, according to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Citing a new report issued jointly by the Food Research and Action Center and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Vilsack said there is evidence of “great strides ensuring that all children are well nourished and prepared to learn.” He also cited data showing declining obesity rates among younger children, 97 percent compliance with healthier meal standards and indications children are eating more of their entrees, more vegetables and more fruit at lunch. Because of the law’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), more than 90,000 schools now participate in the School Breakfast Program, a 27 percent jump from 2009.

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture
Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture

“CEP is a win for schools, parents and students, and the results we’ve seen in the first two years of nationwide implementation are inspiring,” Vilsack said. “The report also underscores how the 2010 bipartisan child nutrition law has achieved significant positive results for child nutrition and health. It is because of these undeniable results that I urge Congress to stay the course in child nutrition. It would be unwise to roll back standards, saddle parents and school administrators with more paperwork or weaken assistance for our most vulnerable children.”

Vilsack’s statement comes amid indications that the House version of the bill reauthorizing the child nutrition bill may differ markedly from bipartisan measure that passed the Senate Agriculture Committee in January. Numerous media sources are reporting the still awaited House measure may block further sodium reductions and loosen requirements for fresh fruits and vegetables, in addition to other potentially contentious differences with the Senate bill.