Just Before Christmas, Child Nutrition Bill becomes law

Senator Tom Harkin D-Iowa

With Christmas and holiday celebrations just around the corner, it can be easy to forget that our country is currently fighting two food-related epidemics. We have rising rates of diet-related chronic disease, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, while at the same time many families cannot afford to provide their children with consistent, healthy meals. But recently enacted legislation will provide new tools in each of these fights. Congress recently passed, and the President signed into law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This bill will go a long way in ensuring that not only do our kids have enough to eat, but that they receive food that points them toward a healthier, brighter future.

This fiscally responsible and bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act reauthorizes the nation’s major Federal child nutrition programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). These are programs like the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs that help ensure kids from all economic backgrounds are not denied access to nutritious and fulfilling meals. And to address the growing number of underserved kids, the bill provides $4.5 billion in additional funding over the next 10 years – nearly ten times the amount of money provided for the previous child nutrition reauthorization, and the largest new investment in child nutrition programs since their inception.

In addition to helping feed our children, one of the major provisions of the bill – and one I have worked on for over a decade – will put into place common-sense nutrition standards for the foods and beverages sold in schools.

We all love delicious snacks and treats at home during the holiday season, but when kids are at school this bill will help make the healthy choice, the easy choice. This is to help support the efforts of parents who work hard to feed their kids nutritious meals and who do not want these efforts undermined when their kids go to school. In fact, we know that it’s the choice that parents around the country prefer – survey after survey shows that parents support school nutrition standards at school that reinforce the healthy choices that parents try to make for their kids at home.

While there is more that we must do to fight childhood obesity, and at the same time ensure that no American child is going to bed hungry, this bill certainly takes important steps in the right direction and I will continue to fight in Washington towards these goals. And while there is much to be done, as we all sit down for our holiday meals, may we not forget all the many blessings we do have here in Iowa and in America. From my family to yours- happy holidays.