Washington, D.C. (December 13, 2010) – President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama delivered remarks Monday following the signing into law of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 at Harriet Tubman Elementary School located in Washington, DC. The President and the First Lady were joined by administration officials and Members of Congress, as well as teachers, students, and parents from Harriet Tubman Elementary School, Bancroft Elementary School, and Murch Elementary School.
Joining them on stage were Nancy Nguyen and her daughter Tammy Nguyen, a 7th grade student at Deal Middle School in Washington, D.C. and a Bancroft Elementary School alumna. Tammy read an essay she wrote about working in the White House Kitchen Garden when the First Lady visited Bancroft Elementary in May 2009. She also introduced the First Lady at the launch of the Let’s Move initiative in February 2010.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was passed to improve the quality of school breakfasts, lunches and other foods sold in schools while also strengthening nutrition programs that serve young children, including WIC and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. The bill played an important part of the Obama Administration’s goal of solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation, which First Lady Michelle Obama has championed through the Let’s Move! Initiative.
The First Lady was joined by administration officials and advocates to reaffirm their commitment to raising a healthier generation of kids. She said it was a great day for kids throughout the country because they will soon have healthier, and more nutritious food in their schools.
“As we continue to focus on the twin issues of childhood obesity and hunger, we will increase access to good, quality meals in school cafeterias so the nutritional needs of our youngsters are better met,” said U.S. Secretary Of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “The President and First Lady have advocated strongly for passing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, and, this bill, along with the resources and the powers provided under it, are going to allow USDA to be much more effective and aggressive in responding to obesity and hunger challenges for America’s kids.”
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said the Act is a significant step forward with efforts to help children thrive and grow to be healthy adults with access to healthy, balanced, nutritious school lunches.
“By increasing the number of students eligible to enroll in school meal programs and improving the quality of food served, this legislation simultaneously tackles both hunger and the obesity levels currently affecting too many communities across this nation,” he said.
O. Marion Burton, MD, FAAP, president, American Academy of Pediatrics, said the Act makes significant progress toward ending child hunger and obesity by expanding access to federal child nutrition programs and improving the nutritional value they provide.
“In addition to reauthorizing federal child nutrition programs, the act will help address childhood obesity by reducing the fat and calorie content of school meals,” said Burton. “Reversing the childhood obesity epidemic in a single generation – as First Lady Michelle Obama has called upon our nation to do – won’t be easy. It will require a long-term, sustained commitment to attacking this issue across multiple fronts. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act makes great strides toward eliminating this threat to our children’s health.”
Nancy Brown, CEO, American Heart Association, said the historic signing of the Act helps schools become part of the solution to the childhood obesity epidemic.
“It is a victory for American parents working to make sure their kids grow up healthy, and for schools wanting to provide students with more nutritious meals and a healthier environment,” said Brown. “With the implementation of this law, our nation’s kids will be less likely to grow up with early risk factors for heart disease and stroke.”
Over 31 million children receive meals through the school lunch program and many children receive most, if not all, of their meals at school. With over seventeen million children living in food insecure households and one out of every three children in America now considered overweight or obese, schools often are on the front lines of a national challenge to combat childhood obesity and improve children’s overall health.
This legislation includes significant improvements that will help provide children with healthier and more nutritious food options, educate children about making healthy food choices, and teach children healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
The Act authorizes funding for federal school meal and child nutrition programs and increases access to healthy food for low-income children. The bill that reauthorizes these programs is often referred to by shorthand as the child nutrition reauthorization bill. This particular bill reauthorizes child nutrition programs for five years and includes $4.5 billion in new funding for these programs over 10 years.
Many of the programs featured in the Act do not have a specific expiration date, but Congress is periodically required to review and reauthorize funding. This reauthorization presents an important opportunity to strengthen programs to address more effectively the needs of our nation’s children and young adults.
The Act gives USDA the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods regularly sold in schools during the school day, including vending machines, the “a la carte” lunch lines, and school stores.
It provides additional funding to schools that meet updated nutritional standards for federally-subsidized lunches. This is an historic investment, the first real reimbursement rate increase in over 30 years.
It helps communities establish local farm to school networks, create school gardens, and ensures that more local foods are used in the school setting.
The Act builds on USDA work to improve nutritional quality of commodity foods that schools receive from USDA and use in their breakfast and lunch programs. It expands access to drinking water in schools, particularly during meal times.
It sets basic standards for school wellness policies including goals for nutrition promotion and education and physical activity, while still permitting local flexibility to tailor the policies to their particular needs. It promotes nutrition and wellness in child care settings through the federally-subsidized Child and Adult Care Food Program.
It also expands support for breastfeeding through the WIC program, and increases the number of eligible children enrolled in school meal programs by approximately 115,000 students by using Medicaid data to directly certify children who meet income requirements.
The Act will also certify an average additional 4,500 students per year to receive school meals by setting benchmarks for states to improve the certification process. It eliminates the paper application system and uses census data to determine school-wide income eligibility including in after school programs.