Washington, DC - Today, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing to examine how national school breakfast and lunch programs can be used to improve child health and nutrition in a time of shrinking budgets and growing waistlines.
At the hearing, United States Senator Michael Bennet - a former school Superintendent and father of three girls - highlighted the important role a healthy, nutritious diet plays in a child's growth and development. He also emphasized the need to streamline administration and participation in school nutrition programs and make it easier for kids to make healthy eating choices.
Senator Bennet's opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, are included below:
"Chairman Harkin, I am pleased to be a new member of this Committee, because I have a genuine interest in many of the farming, natural resource, food, and nutrition issues that you all deal with every day. I am eager to learn and expect to spend a lot of time in the coming months traveling around Colorado, listening and learning from Coloradans and from my colleagues who have years of experience on this Committee.
"No issue that you deal with day to day strikes me as more important to our future than child nutrition. Also, as a former school superintendent and father of three school-aged children, I know that children learn better when they have had enough to eat. No child can be expected to learn multiplication tables when they're hungry. Poor nutrition impairs cognitive development. And if there's one thing this financial crisis teaches us, it's that we adults don't have all the answers. We need our young people to develop into innovative, creative world-leaders. Nutrition and overall wellness are essential components of education reform, healthcare reform, and building a brighter future for generations to come.
"Educators spend too much time filling out paperwork so kids can receive free and reduced-price school breakfasts and lunches. If we can streamline and automate administration and participation then our teachers can teach and our students can learn. We also have to make it easier for kids to make healthy choices, both at lunch time and in between meals by making sure schools are environments that foster wellness in the classroom, in the lunchroom and in the hallways.
"Proper nutrition outside the school setting is just as important. If we expect children to come to school ready to learn, then they must be nourished during their first few years in day-care, during the summer months, and after school too.
"Everyone in this room would like to see improvements in the overall wellness of our children. In a time of tight budgets and a childhood obesity epidemic, this will require creative thinking as we strive to improve participation, and improve meal quality simultaneously.
"I look forward to embarking on this challenge with you, Mr. Chairman."