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A Victory for Kids

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack helps students with their lunch at the Edward C. Mazique Parent Child Care Center in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010.  Secretary Vilsack is assisted by (L to R) Melkam Mekuria, Center Director and Freida Phiffer, Teacher Assistant. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius were at the facility to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA). Photo by Chris Smith

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack helps students with their lunch at the Edward C. Mazique Parent Child Care Center in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010. Secretary Vilsack is assisted by (L to R) Melkam Mekuria, Center Director and Freida Phiffer, Teacher Assistant. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius were at the facility to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA). Photo by Chris Smith

When I first stepped into my role as Secretary of Agriculture, President Obama and I highlighted healthier school meals as a top priority; and today, we made great strides toward that goal with the passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Today’s historic victory gives USDA the opportunity to make necessary changes within the school lunch and breakfast programs to improve the nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of our nations youngsters.

The programs supported in this piece of legislation serve nearly 32 million children each school day, and work in concert to form a national guard against childhood hunger.  As we continue to strengthen our nutrition programs in the months and years ahead, this bill will work to not only improve the nutritional quality of food sold in all schools, it will also put kids across the country on the path to a healthy lifestyle.

And today, that piece of legislation made its way through Congress and passed – promising millions of children the quality nutrition they deserve. The truth is, we cannot afford another generation of children who grow up hungry or overweight. As President Truman said when he signed the legislation creating federally-funded school meals, a nation is only as healthy as its children.

Once signed into law, USDA is poised to start implementing the provisions outlined in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act that will allow students to be confident, healthy, and overall better learners. By improving the quality of food safety in each and every cafeteria; by bettering the commodities supplied to schools; by expanding the access to drinking water; and by making child care meals the best they can be – we will get one step closer to our goals.

And it is for these reasons that I thank Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Miller, Chairwoman DeLauro, and Leader Hoyer for their leadership on this critical piece of legislation. These changes to our schools and school meals will help our children find a brighter future, and help guarantee the success of our nation as a whole.

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