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Dan Glickman and Ann Veneman: Schools, parents and kids are onboard with new school meals, Congress should follow suit

The Hill

Thursday, September 17, 2015

This week the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee continue to negotiate child nutrition legislation. We urge bipartisan progress on this important issue to ensure our nation’s children receive nutritious meals and snacks during the school day. Ninety-five percent of schools are successfully meeting the new standards and serving healthier meals. We encourage Congress to support the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and schools across the country in getting that number up to 100 percent so that healthy meals can help combat childhood obesity and the chronic conditions that come with it.

The standards we have today have been a long time coming and spanned both the Bush and Obama administrations. With the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, Congress instructed USDA to update the nutrition standards based on the latest Dietary Guidelines. The bill, authored by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), passed in the Senate by unanimous consent and passed without objection in the House just one day later. The science-based process of updating nutrition standards is very time-intensive, and when the next reauthorization came up in 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) instructed USDA to continue the good work and issue the new regulations.

In our 2012 report, Lots to Lose: How America’s Health and Obesity Crisis Threatens our Economic Future, we supported full implementation of HHFKA because we see it as a key component to improving child nutrition and combating childhood obesity. And we have continued to support this through opinion editorials and public comments, asking Congress to end the food fight over “pizza is a vegetable” and white potatoes, and supporting the Competitive Foods Rule and the new nutrition standards for meals served in child care. With the alarming increase in adults and even children being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and the high associated medical costs, now is not the time to roll back nutrition standards for programs that feed tens of millions of children every day.