Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have urged lawmakers to act quickly on a bill they say will improve school meals.
In a joint statement Monday, Vilsack and Duncan highlighted opportunities for improving the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs through the child nutrition bill pending in the House.
The Senate has already passed the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill — called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act — which would make significant improvements to school lunch and school breakfast programs across the country. Last week more than 1,000 organizations from all 50 states — representing public health experts, private sector companies, and faith-based and anti-hunger organizations — wrote to the House of Representatives urging passage of the legislation.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, would:
• Increase access to meal programs. Using Medicaid data, states will be able to directly certify children who meet income requirements without requiring individual applications and setting benchmarks for states to continually improve performance;
• Improve nutrition standards. Establishing improved nutrition standards for school meals based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and taking additional steps to ensure compliance with these standards and providing additional financial support in the form of reimbursement rate increases for schools that enhance nutrition and quality;
• Increase education about healthy eating. Providing parents and students better information about school nutrition and meal quality;
• Establish standards for competitive foods sold in schools. Creating national baseline standards for all foods sold in elementary, middle, and high schools to ensure they contribute effectively to a healthy diet;
• Increase physical activity. Strengthening school wellness policy implementation and promoting physical activity in schools;
• Train people who prepare school meals. Ensuring that child nutrition professionals have the skills to serve top-quality meals that are both healthful and appealing to their student customers;
• Enhance food safety. Expanding the current requirements of the food safety program to all facilities where food is stored, prepared and served.