HEALTHY KIDS: The new nutrition standards would not remove popular
foods like pizzas from schools completely, but would make them
healthier, using whole-wheat crust or low-fat mozzarella, for example.
(Photo: ZUMA Press)
Pizzas and hamburgers in the school lunch line would be
healthier under child nutrition legislation passed by the Senate
Thursday, a key part of first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign
to end childhood obesity.
The $4.5 billion legislation passed by voice vote would
create new standards for all foods in schools, including
vending machine items, to give students healthier meal options.
It would also expand the number of low-income children eligible
for free or reduced cost meals.
The legislation had stalled since Senate committee passage
in March, but it gained new attention as the White House
became involved this week. President Barack Obama on
Thursday called Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who had concerns about
the cost of the bill and had threatened to object to it, to
assure him the legislation was paid for. The bill has been a
top priority for Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche
Democrat who is in a tough re-election race this year.
First lady Michelle Obama praised the bill shortly after
it was passed, calling it a "groundbreaking piece of
legislation that will help us
provide healthier school meals to children across America" that
"will play an integral role in our efforts to combat childhood
A similar bill is pending in the House after committee approval
The new nutrition standards would not remove popular foods
like pizzas from schools completely, but would make them
healthier, using whole-wheat crust or low-fat mozzarella, for
example. Vending machines could be stocked with less candy and
fewer high-calorie sodas.
Creation of new standards, which public health advocates have
sought for a decade, has unprecedented support from many
of the nation’s largest food and beverage companies. The two
sides came together on the issue as a heightened interest in
nutrition made it more difficult for the companies to push junk
foods in schools.
Congressional passage of the bill would be only the first
step. Decisions on what kinds of foods will be sold — and what
ingredients may be limited — would be left up to the
Part of the deal to move the legislation this week was to
change the way it was paid for. While the committee bill
partially paid for the legislation by reducing
conservation subsidies paid to farmers for using
environmentally friendly farming practices, the Senate-passed
bill took $2.2 billion out of future funding for food stamp
programs instead after some farm-state senators objected to
using the subsidy money.
Hunger advocates who had previously supported the bill
said they would now oppose it.
"If the only way they can pay for anything is to cut food
stamp benefits, then the nation is in worse shape than we
thought," Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action
Center, said after the vote
Lincoln said Democrats used the money for child nutrition
because lawmakers had been eyeing that pot of money for
other priorities as well. Food stamp money was also used to pay
for a jobs bill the Senate passed Thursday.
"I think it’s most appropriate if these dollars are going to be
spent, that they are spent on nutrition for kids," she said.