With the expiration date on the child nutrition program quickly approaching, First Lady Michelle Obama is again calling on Congress get moving on the pending reauthorization bill. Mrs. Obama penned an op-ed in the Washington Post yesterday, A Food Bill We Need, asking Congress to act “as soon as possible” on the legislation.
“Right now, our country has a major opportunity to make our schools and our children healthier. It’s an opportunity we haven’t seen in years, and one that is too important to let pass by,” Mrs. Obama writes, citing alarming child obesity statistics and bipartisan support for the measure. “This groundbreaking legislation will bring fundamental change to schools and improve the food options available to our children.”
The one-year child nutrition extension expires on September 30. Both the House and Senate reauthorization bills would increase the reimbursement rate for school lunch programs for the first time in three decades. They would also facilitate setting nutritional standards for food sold in school vending machines and a la carte lines and expand access to breakfast programs.
“[I]t is so important that Congress pass this bill as soon as possible,” writes Mrs. Obama. “We owe it to the children who aren’t reaching their potential because they’re not getting the nutrition they need during the day. We owe it to the parents who are working to keep their families healthy and looking for a little support along the way. We owe it to the schools that are trying to make progress but don’t have the resources they need. And we owe it to our country–because our prosperity depends on the health and vitality of the next generation.”
After a major push from lawmakers last week, led by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that both sides of the aisle are close to working out an arrangement for the bill this week.
With only a few work days left before a month-long August recess, the outlook for the legislation is still uncertain. Lawmakers in the House still need to find offsets to pay for their $8 billion bill. The Senate paid for their $4.5 billion version by finding budget cuts within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.