Bennet: Historic Investment in Childhood Nutrition Will Reduce Childhood Hunger and Give Colorado Kids Access to Healthy Meals at School

Works to further strengthen child nutrition bill, enhancing technical assistance and creating State Childhood Hunger Challenge Grants to spur innovative efforts to reduce hunger

March 24, 2010

Washington, DC - Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado and member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today applauded the committee's bipartisan passage of a $4.5 billion investment in child nutrition over 10 years. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 will reduce childhood hunger, promote health through improved nutritional quality, reduce childhood obesity and improve program efficiency. This fiscally responsible legislation is entirely paid for.

"It is so fitting that we are making improvements to child nutrition this week, a week in which we have passed health care reform and are considering education reforms and improvements to the health care law," said Bennet. "This legislation has impacts in both of those spheres because healthy, well-fed kids have fewer health issues and are able to concentrate and have more success in school. Making sure kids in Colorado and all across America have enough healthy food at school and at home will go a long way to help rein in our health care costs and ensure that our kids have the tools necessary to be successful in school."

This legislation will directly affect kids in Colorado by improving their access to nutritious meals and making strides to improve child health and reduce obesity. In 2008, one in five children in the United States lived in food insecure households, and 17.2 percent of Colorado's children lack access to enough food to meet their basic needs.

"As an organization committed to ensuring all Colorado kids have the best opportunity to succeed, we're very pleased that the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is off to such a great start," said Chris Watney, President of the Colorado Children's Campaign. "There are a number of important provisions in the legislation, but we're particularly pleased to see that the bill establishes a process for implementing strong national nutrition standards for foods available in schools. We know that healthy kids are better learners and that these standards will go a long way to ensuring all students have access to the nutritious foods they need to be successful in school and healthy in life."

Many kids in Colorado are eligible for free or reduced-price meals but are not able to participate in such programs because of bureaucratic complications. This bill increases access to these programs by expanding automatic enrollment and reducing the paperwork necessary to enroll.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 makes monumental investments that will reduce childhood obesity, and childhood hunger. The bill streamlines enrollment in summer, afterschool and school meal programs, improves program access, increases reimbursements to schools that provide healthier meals, and strengthening local school wellness policies while strengthening standards for foods sold in schools and promoting farm-to-school efforts.

Bennet continued to work toward strengthening the bill by offering two additional amendments during consideration before the committee. One amendment would strengthen and clarify the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) obligation to also consider technical assistance when the department works with states to help them meet certification requirements under the bill.

Additionally, Bennet also introduced an amendment that would authorize the USDA to create "State Childhood Hunger Challenge Grants" that would provide states opportunities to reduce hunger by targeting communities with higher prevalence of child hunger and collaborating with a wide range of partners.

Governor Bill Ritter said, "I wholeheartedly support Senator Bennet's proposal to create State Childhood Hunger Challenge Grants. We have seen through Colorado's Campaign to End Childhood Hunger just how quickly a focused effort can make progress. Senator Bennet's amendment sets the stage for a national competition that will encourage innovative thinking, creative solutions, and uncommon partnerships to address childhood hunger. I look forward to working with Sen. Bennet on this important initiative. "

This bill also provides funding for Farm-to-School programs, an effort Bennet has been championing as the co-sponsor of the Growing Farm to School Act. These programs connect local farmers and schools to provide locally grown nutritious products to schools and to give farmers a new market for their products. The additional resources included in this bill will give the needed boost for schools and producers across the state to be better able to work together to provide our kids with safe, healthy, fresh school meals.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 will:

  • Expand afterschool meals for at-risk children
  • Connect more eligible low-income children with school meals
  • Help schools improve the nutritional quality of school meals
  • Allow establishment of science-based national nutritional standards for all food sold in schools
  • Strengthen local school wellness policies
  • Help schools protect their food service budgets
  • Improve accuracy of school meal eligibility certifications
  • Improve food safety requirements for school meals programs

This commonsense legislation will improve the nutrition of kids in Colorado, reduce child obesity rates and reduce child hunger. It does all this without adding to the national debt.

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