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Release No. 0285.10
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USDA Office of Communications 202-720-4623
Regional Public Affairs Director David Von Behren 303-844-0312 (office) 303-547-8842 (cell)

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USDA Visits Montana to Highlight Efforts to Improve School Meals and Health of Nation's Children

LOLO, Mont., May 25, 2010 - USDA's Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Julie Paradis today discussed the Obama Administration's priorities for improving school meals and the health of children across the nation with participants at a Healthy Schools Roundtable at Lolo Elementary School in Lolo. Paradis met with about 35 Montana school administrators, food service directors, community leaders, and others involved in school nutrition and discussed current successful school meals programs in the state. Paradis emphasized the importance of renewing the Child Nutrition Act and advocated for a strong reauthorization bill to reduce hunger and improve the health and nutrition of our nation's children.

"The people I met today are truly committed to working together to serve the freshest, most nutritious foods to students and make sure they have ample opportunities for physical activity," Paradis said. "Ideas expressed during our conversation today are at the heart of our commitment to pass a strong reauthorization bill which will enhance our child nutrition programs."

Congress is currently considering legislation to bolster the Child Nutrition Act, which authorizes the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, and Summer Food Service Programs. These programs serve nearly 32 million children each school day and work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Improving the Child Nutrition Act is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign and highlighted in the White House report Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation released Tuesday, May 11. In response to this plan, USDA will be moving to implement the recommendations in the report that require federal action. In the coming year alone:

* USDA will work with Congress to pass a child nutrition reauthorization bill that improves food in schools;

* USDA will update the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Food Pyramid to provide parents and caregivers with helpful information about nutrition;

* USDA, Treasury, and HHS will work with Congress to bring grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to underserved areas by supporting more than $400 million in investments in a Healthy Food Financing Initiative.

By passing strong reauthorization legislation, with the full $1 billion annual increase requested in President Obama's budget, the Administration hopes to reduce hunger, promote access, and improve the overall health and nutrition of children throughout the country. To learn more about the First Lady's Let's Move! campaign, visit www.LetsMove.gov.

Today, Paradis outlined USDA's priorities for the Child Nutrition Act which include:

* 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;

* Increase access to meal programs. Providing tools to increase participation in the school nutrition programs, streamline applications, and eliminate gap periods;

* 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;

* Serve more healthy food. Promoting increased consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low- and fat-free dairy products and providing additional financial support in the form of reimbursement rate increases for schools that enhance nutrition and quality;

* 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;

* Provide schools with better equipment. Helping schools with financial assistance to purchase equipment needed to produce healthy, attractive meals;

* Enhance food safety. Expanding the current requirements of the food safety program to all facilities where food is stored, prepared and served;

* Strengthen the link between local farmers and school cafeterias. Supporting farm-to-school and school-to-farm programs will increase the amount of produce available to cafeterias and help to support local farmers by establishing regular, institutional buyers.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs including the child nutrition programs that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance program.

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