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Improving Quality of Meals in Schools and Child Care

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy explains the impact of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  Currently over 32 million children rely on federal child nutrition programs and this legislation will help set American children on a path of healthy eating and healthy living.   

The bipartisan legislation, which will reauthorize child nutrition programs, will expand access for millions of children to healthy meals year-round in schools, child care and community-based settings.  It is also one of the most historic investments in child nutrition programs, since they were first implemented.  The bill will now go to the President to be signed into law.    

As a nurse for over 30 years, I have seen firsthand the risks and illnesses that can result from obesity.  I have been working hard on childhood nutrition legislation for years and this bill calls for common sense action to protect the health of our children and I applaud my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their support of this effort to improve access to healthy food for our children.  

As Chairwoman of the Healthy Families and Communities Subcommittee, I held numerous subcommittee hearings and listened to testimony about studies that demonstrate that one in five four-year-olds are obese, that kids have the arteries of middle-aged adults and that the number of children who take medication for chronic diseases has jumped dramatically.   

These statistics are shocking.  Lack of access to affordable and healthy foods, lack of safe, available venues for physical activity, and lack of education about nutrition and its benefits are threatening an entire generation of children.  The First Lady has been doing an incredible job bringing this issue to the forefront with her "Let's Move" campaign.  Now Congress has done its part to emphasize the importance of healthy food and healthy eating habits at an early age, to help set American children and adolescents on a path to healthy living.    

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act contains provisions which are very important to a great number of children.  I'm proud that this bill contains provisions from legislation I've introduced to promote nutrition and wellness in child care settings and supporting breastfeeding for low-income women.  The bipartisan legislation will improve the quality of meals children eat in school and in child care, increase the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches and eliminate junk food from schools by applying nutritional standards to food served outside the cafeteria for the first time ever. Low-income communities tend to have the highest obesity rates and during difficult financial times, many families across the country are struggling to put food on the table.  Our schools have an increasingly important role to play in providing children with nutritious food during the day and we must ensure that these schools have access to adequate funding in order to meet the demand for meals with healthy, nutritious and high-quality foods.   

One of the greatest responsibilities we have as a nation is to safeguard the health and well-being of our children.  Through this comprehensive approach to nutrition, our children, families and communities will all be healthier.  

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