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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions - S 1367

Location: Washington, DC


By Mr. MCCONNELL (for himself, Mr. BAYH, and Mr. FITZGERALD):

    S. 1367. A bill to amend the Richard B. Russell National School Act to establish programs to promote increased consumption of milk in schools and to improve the nutrition and health of children; to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

    Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce a very important piece of legislation that could provide great benefits for the health of our young people while simultaneously strengthening the future viability of dairy producers throughout the United States.

    My bill, the Child Nutrition Improvement Act of 2003, would provide incentives for schools to encourage the consumption of milk as part of the school lunch program and supply needed flexibility for schools to offer a wide variety of milk products and flavors.

    There is no doubt that the eating habits we develop when we are young affect our habits and nutritional choices for the rest of our lives. The school lunch program has provided a key tool in promoting healthy eating habits among young people, which have both health and educational benefits.

    Milk has been a critical component of the school lunch program because it is the principal source of calcium and a leading source of several other important nutrients in our diet. That was true when the federal program began in 1946 and it is still true today.

    With 9 out of 10 teenage girls and 7 out of 10 teenage boys currently not getting enough calcium, milk's important is perhaps greater today than ever before. Serving milk with the school lunch is a critical step in addressing the calcium crisis. Federal child health experts who are on the frontlines fighting the calcium crisis recognize milk's central role in addressing the problem. Study after study, emphasize the need for growing children and teens to consume more milk for healthy bones, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has urged its members to recommend their patients get enough milk, cheese, yogurt and other calcium rich foods to help build bone mass.

    As a result of these recommendations, we have seen a push for more milk in more places in school, like vending machines and school stores. There's a real concern about nutritious choices for school children, and many local school districts and state legislatures are pushing to add more healthful beverage choices like milk.

    A large school vending test in 2001 demonstrated that kids will eagerly buy milk from vending machines in schools when it is offered. The test was heralded by school nutritionists and helped stimulate nationwide interest in getting milk vending machines into more schools.

    A pilot test conducted in 146 schools with 100,000 students showed dramatic increases in milk consumption—15 percent in elementary schools and 22 percent in secondary schools—when simple improvements were made in the way milk was packaged and presented to students. The milk was served colder and kids loved the addition of a third flavor, it was usually strawberry. No only did kids drink more milk, more kids ate in the cafeteria. That meant they not only got milk, they also got improved nutrition through greater intake of vegetables, fruits and other nutritionally important foods.

    Milk has an unsurpassed nutrient package for young children and teens. Milk has nine essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamins A, D and B12, protein, potassium, riboflavin, niacin and phosphorus. These nutrients are critical to good health and the prevention of chronic disease. In addition, it is the primary way that growing children get the calcium they need. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture about 75 percent of the calcium in our food supply comes from milk and foods made with milk. By about age 20, the average young person has acquired about 98 percent of his or her skeletal mass. Building strong bones during childhood and adolescence is one of the best defenses against developing osteoporosis later in life.

    In addition to the bone-building benefits of milk, research indicates that a diet rich in low-fat milk may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease and help prevent breast cancer, colon cancer and even help in the fight against obesity.

    Milk's role in a nutritious diet has long been noted by the nutrition and science community, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dietetic Association, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and many other reputable health organizations.

    As I have already mentioned, government statistics indicate that we have a calcium crisis among our children and youth. Nearly 90 percent of teenage girls and almost 70 percent of teenage boys fail to get enough calcium in their diets. During the teen years nearly half of all bone is formed and about 15 percent of your adult height is added. As a national health priority, for proper growth and development, we need to be doing all we can to encourage our children and youth to drink milk, and that is the goal of the legislation I am introducing today.

    I ask my colleagues for your support of this important piece of legislation.

    I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

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