WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 2015—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack delivered keynote remarks today at the Center for American Progress encouraging Congress to act quickly to reauthorize a strong Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and support the ongoing success of the healthier meals now being served in schools across the country. Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and other strategies, the national childhood obesity trend is slowly reversing, and our children have more energy to learn and grow, greater opportunity to thrive, and better overall health.
Below are excerpts from Secretary Vilsack's remarks as delivered:
"Five years ago, we treated this subject with the importance it deserved with the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. […] We have to see nutrition in the same way that we see so many other issues that relate to national security, economic security, healthcare security. It's just as critically important [a] part."
"Seventy-six percent of America's teachers report that children come to school hungry. […] I know that I don't perform well when I'm hungry, and the reality is, neither do children. If we are going to expect our children to be at their best in terms of educational achievement, we have to make sure they're well-fed at schools."
"Bottom line is that the standards are being embraced. They are making a difference. And given an opportunity to work over a long period of time, they will result in healthier youngsters, better achievement in school, a stronger economy, and more young people to draw from for public service, military, and other opportunities that national service can provide."
"Over the course of the past several years, we've seen significant acceptance of these standards. Ninety-five percent of schools are certified under the new standards. And it's not just school districts certified, it's also an acceptance by the general public. Based on recent surveys, up to 90 percent of the American public believes it's appropriate to have [national standards] for school meals. It's embraced by parents of school-aged children, 72 percent of parents in a recent survey suggested support for the new standards. It's embraced by the students themselves, with 70 percent of elementary students and nearly 60 percent of high school students embracing the standards. That's resulting in more fruits and vegetables being consumed […] and resulting in less plate waste […]."
"This is personal to the people who work at USDA. We go to schools, sit down with kids, we talk to them. And it's personal to me."
"This is an important opportunity for the country to reinforce the good work that was done in 2010 [with the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act], to expand on it, to solidify it, to institutionalize it, and to strengthen it. I'm here today to encourage Congress to get back to work as our youngsters are getting back to school, [and reauthorize strong nutrition programs]. Don't take a step back, let's take steps forward. That's what we did in 2010, and that's what we should do in 2015."
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