Today, Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) joined a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives in voting for legislation that includes the most significant improvements to America's child nutrition programs in over 30 years. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, S. 3307, invests an additional $4.5 billion in school meals programs and takes significant steps to reduce childhood hunger and childhood obesity in America. The legislation passed the House with a 264 -- 157 vote.
"The rate of childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years -- and obesity related health care now costs our nation over $147 billion annually," commented Rep. Baca. "Our nation needs decisive action to combat obesity, and avoid this impending public health crisis. Today's legislation significantly improves the quality of the school meals our children will receive, puts more fresh fruits and vegetables into our schools, and makes great strides to ensure all needy children have access to school meals benefits."
S. 3307 focuses on nutrition quality to improve children's health and reduce childhood obesity, improves access to child nutrition programs to reduce childhood hunger, and improves program management and integrity for child nutrition programs. Key provisions of the legislation include:
* Increasing the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches for school districts that comply with federal nutrition standards;
* Requiring the USDA to develop science-based nutrition standards for all foods sold on a school campus;
* Establishing farm-to-school programs and school garden programs to connect more children to healthy produce from local farms;
* Connecting more children with school meals by using Medicaid data to directly certify children who meet income requirements and by setting benchmarks for states to improve their direct certification of children;
* Expanding the after-school supper program for at-risk children nationwide; and
* Increasing efficiency and modernizing the WIC program by transitioning from paper food vouchers to an electronic benefit program.
As Chair of the House Agriculture Subcommittee with jurisdiction on nutrition issues, Rep. Baca has been very active in the effort to raise awareness and find solutions to the childhood obesity crisis. He has led numerous hearings, both in Washington and in California, to explore obesity prevention measures and increase access to healthy foods in schools and low-income communities. This Congress, Rep. Baca has introduced legislation designed to increase the amount of physical education time required for students in all public schools, to mandate that all students receive at least 50 hours of nutrition education per year, and to provide new tax incentives to promote more fresh fruit and vegetable production in underserved areas.
"Passage of this legislation marks a critical step in recognizing the seriousness of childhood obesity, and working towards preventative solutions that make America a happier, healthier nation," continued Rep. Baca. "I thank First Lady Michelle Obama, for her outstanding efforts to increase awareness of childhood obesity and for her efforts to ensure passage of this meaningful legislation. And while I am disappointed in the cuts to the SNAP program that are used to fund some of the improvements included in this bill, I pledge to work with the Obama Administration and my colleagues in the House Agriculture Committee to ensure the SNAP program is fully funded moving forward."