UPDATED — The House Education and Labor Committee has announced it will hold its first hearing on the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act, an $8 billion bill to fund federal nutrition programs, next Thursday.
The legislation was introduced earlier this month by committee chairman George Miller (D-CA), celebrity chef Rachael Ray, and a group of bipartisan lawmakers. The bill would dramatically expand access to federal nutrition programs in schools, child care, and community program settings for millions of children and for the first time, establish nutrition standards for foods sold in schools–in vending machines and snack lines, both means for offering unhealthy food outside the jurisdiction of federal nutrition standards.
The House version is similar to the child nutrition bill pending in the Senate, though it offers substantially more funding. The Senate version calls for $4.5 billion in additional funding over 10 years, a little under half of the Obama Administration’s request of $10 billion. Both bills significantly increase the reimbursement rates for food, something that hasn’t happened (aside from adjusting for inflation) since 1973.
First Lady Michelle Obama has been urging Congress to move on the legislation, which is a critical component of her Let’s Move campaign to end childhood obesity.
“Once again, I urge Congress to provide the resources that we’re going to need to support these important programs that will be able to help change our children’s futures and those after that,” Mrs. Obama said last week. “If we can do something to improve the quality of food in our schools, we’re going to go a long way to affecting the futures of our children.”
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are still optimistic they can complete a bill before August recess–the current Child Nutrition Act extension expires September 30–but there are a number of legislative priorities competing for time and attention on Capitol Hill.
Bill also addresses food safety in schools
According to Rep. Miller’s office, the bill would ensure school meals are safe for all students by extending food safety requirements to all areas in which school food is stored, prepared, and served. According to Miller’s office, the legislation responds directly to a September Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found a lack of coordination in communicating food safety problems to schools.
The bill calls for improved communication to speed notification of recalled school foods consistent with GAO recommendations and ensuring all foodservice employees have access to food safety training to prevent and identify foodborne illness such as through Web-based training.
The hearing next week, July 1, will be held in the House Education and Labor Committee Hearing Room, 2175 Rayburn House Office Building, in Washington, DC at 9:15 a.m. EST. A live webcast will be available on the committee website.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will testify at the hearing, followed by renowned chef and Top Chef judge, Tom Colicchio, author of “Mission: Readiness,” Major General Paul Monroe, vice president and chief medical officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield, Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, and president of the Food Research & Action Center, James Weill.
This article was updated with a committee hearing time change–10 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. EST–and with the newly released witness list.