House Republicans used a subcommittee hearing Friday to challenge the goals of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the historic and bipartisan law enacted last year to increase low-income children's access to school meals and all children's access to healthier meals in school. The law called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a science-based process to ensure that more nutritious food are sold in schools.
"House Republicans voted to end Medicare, repeal affordable health care, and slash educational opportunities for disadvantaged children. Are healthy meals for kids in school next on their target list?" asked U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, after the hearing today.
Currently, the law is in the process of being implemented by the USDA. In January, the agency issued proposed regulations for the new meal standards, including calling for increased availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat free and low-fat milk, and reducing sodium and saturated fat. The legislation was supported by a broad coalition of child advocacy, faith based, business, school and physician groups. It was passed unanimously by the Senate and with a wide bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives last year.
"As the USDA implements the law through a science-based process, we should draw from the many success stories and continue to examine how best to make school meal programs work effectively and efficiently," said Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI), the chair of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee. "This will be a deliberative process that will consist of proposed regulations, public comments, rulemaking and oversight. But one thing is certain: we cannot move backwards. Our country and our children cannot afford that."
Committee Republicans also introduced a bill today to eliminate more than 40 education programs. Miller said that the proposal would "not help move our education system to the 21st century and it won't mean better outcomes for our students."