Representatives Sam Farr (D-CA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA) were joined by Tom Colicchio, head judge on Top Chef and a founder of Food Policy Action, and parents with the FED UP campaign today to call attention to Republican efforts to weaken nutrition standards in the FY15 Agriculture Appropriations bill. The bill, scheduled to be voted on by the House of Representatives later tonight, includes a Republican proposal that would allow schools to opt out of the nutrition standards created by the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
"Our kids deserve more healthy fruits, vegetables and whole grains not more sugar and salt," said Rep. Farr. "Four years ago, Congress made a promise to school parents that their tax dollars would no longer be wasted on junk food in the lunchroom. We are here to uphold that promise and save healthy school lunches. The new standards are working. 90% of schools are successfully meeting them and we are reversing the obesity epidemic."
Two weeks ago, Republicans on Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Farr to strike the Republicans' waiver provision. The amendment lost on a party line vote. Rep. Farr will reintroduce his amendment on the House floor today.
"We all know that we are facing an obesity crisis in America right now," said Rep. DeLauro, a former Chairwoman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. "The obesity rate among kids has tripled in recent years. That is why Congress passed the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act in 2010, setting national nutrition standards to improve school meals and get all the junk food that has infiltrated schools out the door. But now, House Republicans are trying to appease special interests by weakening those standards. We should not be turning the clock back or mortgaging our kids' futures. We need to ensure that all of our schools are serving healthy, nutritious meals."
There are currently 15.9 million hungry children across the country, many of whom receive their only nutritious meals at school. According to the USDA, 91 percent of school systems are already in compliance with the new guidelines, and in many population segments, including low-income school districts, there has been an increase in school meal participation.
"House Republicans are once again putting the needs of special interest lobbyists ahead of children by trying to undo the progress that schools have made toward feeding kids healthier meals," said Rep. Miller. "By enabling schools to waive nutritional standards, the House majority is reneging on our commitment to the health of children all across the country and to the millions of families who rely on federal programs as a nutritional safety net. Research has shown that better nutrition improves children's health and helps them do better in school, setting them up for success throughout their lives. Supporting our children's health and well-being must be our priority. Our nation's future depends on it."
"When I send my boys out the door each morning, I want to know that my tax dollars are being used to ensure that their schools are offering the same healthy choices we provide at home," said Ashley Giglio, parent and former school teacher from Arlington, Va. "The FED UP moms will be visiting Members of Congress in their offices to remind them what is at stake with their vote. We are going to make sure they do their job because we expect Washington to do the right thing when it comes to our kids."
"As a father of 3 boys, and the son of a lunch lady from Elizabeth, New Jersey, this fight feels personal," said Colicchio. "House Republicans should be ashamed that they are fighting to make school meals less nutritious. Let's be clear on what they are advocating for: more salt and sugar, and less whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Making investments now in better eating and healthier diets will save hundreds of billions of dollars in health care costs for preventable diseases like diabetes and heart disease."
The FY15 Agriculture Appropriations bill contains provisions that would roll back school nutrition standards. This would pave the way for fewer whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and more sodium, sugar, and overall fat, including saturated and trans fats, in school meals. The legislation would also circumvent the USDA/Institute of Medicine process for determining the appropriate foods to offer in the food package for the Supplemental Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.