Bill Reauthorizing School Nutrition Programs Advances Towards U.S. Senate

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By ideastream’s Brian Bull

In Congress today, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a bill to reauthorize child nutrition programs. 

Backers of the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act include U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. The Ohio Democrat co-sponsored a piece of the bill to allow schools to expand their food programs during summer months, to provide more meal access for low-income students. 

State Education Department data for 2014 says roughly 600,000 Ohio children qualify for free or reduced lunches. 

“But currently, Ohio only reaches about 10 percent of those children,” says Senator Brown. “Our provision would improve the way we reach students during the summer to ensure more children get the food they need.  It would allow the Department of Agriculture to issue vouchers to families who have trouble accessing summer feeding sites.”

The vouchers can be used at local grocery stores, or meals could be delivered in some cases.

Health advocacy groups back the legislation, because it improves school food recipes by doing things like reducing sodium. Under the current bill, schools get an extension to implement that change. 

Backers also include Jessica Shelley, Food Service Director of Cincinnati Public Schools.  She says the act builds on healthy nutritional standards established five years ago. 

“So we try and mimic that in the summer feeding program by making sure we have a fresh fruit and a fresh vegetable selection,” says Shelley. “We don’t have anything of high fructose corn syrup in our district. Everything is in its own juices.  So if we do have a pear cup, or a frozen strawberry cup, it’s a “no sugar added” or in its own juice.”

Nutritional standards were brought into accord with federal dietary guidelines by the Healthy Hunger-Free kids Act of 2010, supported by First Lady Michelle Obama. 

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