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Public Statements

Child Nutrition Improvement and Integrity Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

CHILD NUTRITION IMPROVEMENT AND INTEGRITY ACT -- (House of Representatives - March 24, 2004)

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Mr. BOEHNER. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on H.R. 3873.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Ohio?
There was no objection.

Mr. BOEHNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this measure, which represents months of hard work and commitment to bipartisan cooperation. In that spirit, we have before us a bill that will extend the life of the Federal child nutrition programs while strengthening program integrity, ensuring effective use of Federal resources, and providing continued nutrition services for millions of American children.

First and foremost, I would like to thank the author of this bill and those who have worked closely with him to reach our shared goal of strengthening Federal child nutrition programs. The chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Education Reform, the gentleman from Delaware (Mr. Castle) and the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey), deserve a great deal of credit for their hard work and cooperation that have brought this bill before us today. I would also like to thank the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller), the ranking member of the committee, for his continued commitment to a bipartisan, cooperative process. The Federal child nutrition programs ensure millions of needy children have access to healthy and nutritious meals. The investment in these programs is considerable, and so is our obligation to ensure our Federal resources are being used effectively and efficiently. Children and families depend on the Federal child nutrition programs, and they depend on us to ensure that these programs are being administered with integrity.

The Child Nutrition Improvement and Integrity Act reauthorizes the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs, Child and Adult Care Food program, After-School Snack program, the Summer Food Service program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. Taken together, the reforms in this bill will help ensure we are making the most of Federal child nutrition resources, while being mindful of program quality and integrity.

The bill before us strikes, I think, an important balance between our desire to promote healthy nutritional choices and physical activity among children, and the need to preserve local control for schools, communities, and States. The gentleman from Delaware (Mr. Castle), the author of this bill, has been a leader in our efforts to reduce the epidemic of child obesity by promoting a comprehensive approach that includes nutrition education and physical activity. In particular, the establishment of local wellness policies, written at the local level to reflect local needs, marks significant progress that will promote nutrition education and increase physical activity in schools while maintaining local control.

To improve program integrity within the Federal child nutrition programs and ensure access for eligible children, the legislation makes a number of positive reforms. The bill allows children whose parents are in the Armed Forces and living in privatized military housing to continue to receive free or reduced-price meals in school if they meet the eligibility requirements. It also helps the parents by allowing them to submit a single application for multiple children and ensures enrollment of eligible children through the use of direct certification of school lunch eligibility for those children in families receiving food stamps.

Importantly, the Child Nutrition Improvement and Integrity Act also takes steps to reduce paperwork by allowing school lunch certifications to be valid for one full year, preventing situations in which schools are forced to repeatedly certify children within a single school year. The bill also includes a provision originally proposed by the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Keller) to help reduce the stigma amongst children receiving free and reduced-price lunches by helping schools make technological improvements such as automated meal card systems that keep students' financial status confidential. That, in fact, will also increase the efficiency of program operations.

These are just a few of the numerous reforms that will ensure eligible children and families access to services and Federal resources that are being effectively leveraged to serve children in need.

I would also like to recognize the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Upton) and the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Kind) for their commitment to encouraging partnerships that allow fresh and local produce to go from farms to schools. In recognizing the success and popularity of the fruit and vegetable pilot program, which provides free fresh and dried fruits and fresh vegetables to children in 25 schools in each of four States and on one Indian reservation, I am pleased

that the bill before us authorizes the continuation and expansion of this valuable program.
The act before us will prevent important nutritional programs from expiring, while ensuring that they continue to
operate effectively and efficiently. I am pleased to support this measure and encourage my colleagues to join me in voting "yes" and ensuring the availability of nutritional services for millions of vulnerable children and their families.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. BOEHNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of our time.

As we have seen during the debate today, this has been a very cooperative process, very bipartisan process, both sides of the aisle coming together to do what we can do to improve the nutrition services and nutrition programs that the
Federal Government operates for millions of American children.

There is a lot more that a lot of people would want to do in the bill that we have before us, many things, unfortunately, that we cannot afford under the current budget to do, but I think it has been demonstrated that there is broad bipartisan
support for this bill, and I would encourage Members to not let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

We have a good, sound bill before us that will, in fact, ensure that millions of needy children are served either through the school lunch program, the WIC program or the breakfast program. For many of these children, it may be the only meal that they get all day.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask Members to support the bill. I also thank all of the staff, including Kate Houston on my staff, Stephanie Milburn, Krisann Pearce, Cindy Herrle, Julian Baer, Tyson Redpath who works in my personal office, and Sarah Rittling who works with the gentleman from Delaware (Mr. Castle), and all of our staff, Denise and others on the Democrat side for all of their hard work because they went through months and months of discussions and negotiations.

I also thank all of the groups, the outside groups from the food service administrators to all of those involved in helping us forge this bipartisan agreement. This was not a very easy bill, but it did become easy because there was good cooperation between both sides of the aisle, good understanding of the issues of what we could and could not do. And in the end, bipartisanship does work when Members put their minds together and try to come up with a product that is in the best interest of American children. I would encourage Members to vote for the bill.

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