Highlights National Efforts to Promote Child Health and Nutrition
WASHINGTON, March 08, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today marked National School Breakfast Week (March 8-12) by calling for national support for increased participation in the School Breakfast Program and advancing the health and nutrition of our Nation's children. This year's celebration arrives as Congress takes up the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act which aims to reduce hunger, promote access, and improve the overall health and nutrition of children throughout the country.
"This week as we celebrate the program that serves as the nutritional foundation for many children across America and call for the rapid reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act," said Vilsack. "We're committed to providing all of our children access to safe, nutritious, and well-balanced meals in schools so they have a greater opportunity to succeed and to reach their highest potential. The health of our nation – of our economy, our national security, and our communities – depends on the health of our children."
Every year, USDA in partnership with the School Nutrition Association, celebrates the School Breakfast Program (SBP). The program enables more than 11 million children in over 88,000 schools and residential child care institutions a nutritious start to each school day. The SBP provides school children of all economic backgrounds a well-balanced, healthy meal consistent with the latest science and dietary guidelines.
The Obama Administration has called for increased participation in School Breakfast Program to be a key component of the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. On school days, almost two-thirds of children who participate in the lunch program do not participate in the school breakfast program. While school lunch is served in around 100,000 schools, the breakfast program is only available in 88,000. The reauthorization is an opportunity to promote innovative approaches which have been shown to reduce stigma and promote participation in the program, like serving breakfast in the classroom. The Obama Administration has called on Congress to increase the reimbursement rate for school breakfasts and combine that support with USDA-purchased foods to give more children the option of a healthy breakfast.
"Research shows that a nutritious breakfast at home or school boosts children's ability to learn, fosters better classroom behavior, and reduces visits to the school nurse," said Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon. "The School Breakfast Program is critical to serve children who might not otherwise be able to begin their day with a healthy breakfast. We have an unprecedented opportunity this year through the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act to expand the School Breakfast Program and significantly decrease the number of hungry children."
Every five years, Congress considers improvements to the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act which includes the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. These child nutrition programs serve nutritious, well-balanced meals and snacks to children each day and are critical to their overall health. Children participating in these programs can consume as many as half of their calories at school.
Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the Federal poverty level are eligible for free meals in the School Breakfast Program. Those with higher incomes may be eligible for reduced priced meals.
Last month, First Lady Michelle Obama launched her Let's Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation. The initiative supports USDA's goals to improve child nutrition and help children learn healthier eating and lifestyle habits. Following the launch Let's Move!, USDA and the First Lady called on stakeholders to double the number of schools participating in the HealthierUS School Challenge in the next year and to reach 3,000 within the next three years. HealthierUS School Challenge recognizes schools that do an exceptional job promoting meal participation, meal quality, nutrition education, and physical activity. USDA is working with administering state agencies and a range of other partners, from professional sports leagues and youth associations to promote the program and meet this goal.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs that work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Learn more by visiting www.fns.usda.gov. First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign has four primary tenets: helping parents make healthy family choices, serving healthier food in schools; improving access to healthy, affordable food, and increasing the physical activity level of kids. Learn more by visiting www.LetsMove.gov.
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