It’s been two years since President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 into law. The Act cleared the way for historic improvements to the child nutrition programs, such as school lunch and school breakfast, that serve millions of our nation’s children. We’ve already implemented many provisions of the Act, with many schools reporting success in meeting the new standards, and students finding the new school meals to be an improvement from the status quo. This coming year will be a busy one as we continue to make program updates that help us fight both child hunger and obesity.
Because of the Act, we’ve been able to improve standards for the content of school lunches—and soon school breakfasts— making them healthier than ever before. However, I know implementation is a process that takes time, and as the school year progresses we will continue listening and providing additional education, technical assistance, and flexibilities where appropriate. Throughout this first year, we are closely monitoring implementation and adapting the support we provide to States and schools based on challenges that arise.
We also made the first real reimbursement rate increase for those meals in 30 years to help schools adjust to the changes. Because we know how influential the school environment can be when it comes to encouraging kids to make healthy choices, USDA will propose new standards for other foods sold in schools including in vending machines.
Going forward, we want to make sure we continue to reach low income children with school meals, since those meals are often the most nutritious foods they receive all day. Because of the law, we were able to automatically enroll foster children in free school meals, replace paper applications with community eligibility in the neediest areas of several States, and expand the number of at-risk students who receive afterschool meals. This coming year we will test the efficacy of using Medicaid data to connect eligible children with free school meals as part of the law’s direct certification provision.
These are just a few of the ways the Act brings us closer to meeting the First Lady’s goal of making the next generation of children healthier than the last.
From the beginning, President Obama and the First Lady made clear their commitment to improve the health and nutrition of our nation’s most precious resources. They know, as I do, that the strength of our communities depends on kids getting the nutrition they need to learn and be active. For that reason, the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act was and still is a major victory for American families.