WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2016 – In anticipation of legislation this week from the Senate to reauthorize child nutrition programs, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack provides the following statement:
We are pleased the Senate is making bipartisan progress to reauthorize critical child nutrition programs. The Senate's bill is a win for children, parents, schools and for our country's future. It maintains our commitment to science-based nutrition standards for school meals and protects the advancements we have made in children's health since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Rather than diminish the progress made since the changes were implemented in 2012, the Senate's bill ensures progress will continue improving our children's diets, and it promises to end partisan battles about the future of our kids.
The bill is consistent with the approach taken at USDA all along, which is to provide reasonable flexibility for schools as they continue transitioning to the updated standards -- an approach that is working. A 2014 Harvard study shows that in some schools, under the updated standards, kids are now eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit at lunch. A 2015 study by the University of Connecticut's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that kids ate nearly 20 percent more of their vegetables in the schools they examined after the standards were updated. And a study of schools in Washington State just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics found that the nutritional quality of meals chosen by students has improved since HHFKA was implemented, while program participation did not change. Multiple surveys have documented how the majority of parents and students like the new meals, and—most important—new evidence suggests after decades of a growing obesity epidemic that harmed the health and future of our children and cost our country billions, we are starting to see progress in preventing this disease. The bill sustains and supports this progress.
We applaud the Senate's bipartisan progress and urge Congress to reauthorize these programs for our young people without delay.
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