In his speech Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted the Obama administration's priorities for reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act and urged rapid passage of a robust bill to help improve the health of America's children. He specifically called on Congress to increase funding for federal school lunch programs, which would allow schools to offer nutritious meals that align more closely with the Dietary Guidelines.
"Let me be clear - our expectation is that schools meals will improve as the U.S. Department of Agriculture issues new meal requirements that emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lowfat dairy products," Vilsack said. "The health of our nation - of our economy, our national security and our communities - depends on the health of our children."
Calls for New Authority over All Foods in Schools
He also called for the reauthorization to include new authority for USDA to set nutrition standards for all foods served and sold in schools, including vending machines. IDFA has long supported efforts to have all foods and beverages offered in schools to meet the same nutritional guidelines.
Although he initially focused on the National Lunch Program, Vilsack called for increased participation and funding for the National School Breakfast program, too. The federal lunch program currently is served in 100,000 schools nationwide, while the breakfast program is available in 88,000 schools.
Vilsack emphasized the importance of combining healthy diets with exercise by highlighting First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" Initiative and USDA's partnership with the National Football League and Dairy Management Inc. in the "Fuel Up to Play 60" program. This program seeks to improve child nutrition and encourages kids to get at least 60 minutes a day of physical activity.
Read Vilsack's full remarks here.