By US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to testify before the House Committee on Education and Labor on the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. Every five years, Congress considers improvements to the Child Nutrition Act, which provides assistance to feed tens of millions of programs through the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, and Summer Food Service Programs.The bottom line is that today we face an epidemic of obesity and food insecurity among our nation’s kids that has to be fixed. The importance of reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act this summer cannot be underestimated; the health and wellbeing of our kids cannot wait any longer. And the Administration is strongly committed to passing legislation that reduces child hunger and improves the quality of school meals and the health of the school environment.
There are numerous reasons for passing a robust bill. Youngsters who are hungry or who are dealing with weight issues have difficulty learning. Access to proper nutrition is essential for kids to be at the top of their game, and to succeed academically.
And our children’s nutrition should be a priority for every American – not only because a country as strong, rich and powerful as ours should not have kids who are hungry, but also because only 25% of young adults ages 19 to 24 are fit for military service. The effects of child nutrition are far-reaching, and can be seen throughout our towns, cities and states.
This legislation is also important to our farmers as we look to build relationships between farms and schools. Agricultural producers of all sizes can benefit from efforts to get locally-grown products into school programs, which, if done right, will have a tremendous impact on the agriculture industry, and will also help our kids understand where their food comes from. From this, we will all gain a better understanding of our farmers and ranchers, who are, candidly, greatly under-appreciated in this country.
It’s fair to say that nearly every in America school will be impacted by this legislation. All schools will be challenged to rethink the health of their whole school environment, what they do, and how they’re doing it. And USDA wants to be there and be of assistance to make this necessary shift.
Ultimately, if we can make a difference in one child’s life, it’s worth it. We know what has to be done to give our children the future they deserve. It is time to pass this legislation and make these goals a reality.
- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack shares a light moment with members of the House Committee on Education and Labor. Behind Secretary Vilsack is David Lazarus, Senior Advisor to the Secretary. Secretary Vilsack visited the committee to discuss “H.R.5504, Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act,” in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., Thursday, July 1, 2010.