Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) today voted in favor of legislation that would provide Hawaii students with healthier school meals by making Hawaii eligible for additional federal funds. The House Committee on Education and Labor, of which Congresswoman Hirono is a member, overwhelmingly approved the Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act, H.R. 5504, by a bipartisan vote of 32 yeas to 13 nays.
"Hunger doesn't take a summer vacation. Recent reports highlight the gap between the cost of providing summer meals for our keiki and the federal reimbursement rates for these meals," said Congresswoman Hirono. "The most recent data show that 4,000 fewer children in Hawaii received summer meals in 2009 than in 2008. Hawaii must import more than 85% of its food, and the current federal school food reimbursement rate for Hawaii is completely inadequate."
H.R. 5504 creates a "performance-based reimbursement rate" program where schools could receive an extra 6 cents per meal that meet new, healthier nutrition standards established in the legislation.
Congresswoman Hirono sponsored an amendment along with Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands), and Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico) ensuring that if Hawaii, Alaska, or the U.S. Territories satisfy these new healthier nutrition standards, they could be eligible for increased reimbursement rates through the new funding. If the Secretary of Agriculture does not provide a rate increase for Hawaii, Alaska, or the U.S. Territories, he will have 30 days to explain his decision to Congress. In addition to making meals healthier, the Committee bill would also make it easier to extend food programs for children into the summer as well as school holidays.
"Simply put, this bill will provide more funds to feed more children healthier food," Congresswoman Hirono said. "Our keiki deserve nothing less."
The Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act is expected to be taken up by the full U.S. House later this year.