Sen. Brown statement on agriculture committee passage of Sweeping Childhood Nutrition Bill

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Sen. Brown statement on agriculture committee passage of Sweeping Childhood Nutrition Bill

Jackson County Times-Journal – WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Hunger, Nutrition, and Family Farms, issued the following statement in response to the Agriculture Committee’s consideration of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. This sweeping legislation, which includes Brown’s Hunger Free Schools Act, is aimed at ending childhood hunger, reducing childhood obesity, and improving school nutrition programs.

“During these challenging economic times, more families are struggling to put food on the table. We have an obligation to connect children with healthy, nutritious meals and to ensure they don’t go hungry,” Brown said. “This bold legislation is an important first step in ending childhood hunger and helping Ohio’s children develop healthy eating habits that will continue past their youth.”

Brown is a leading voice in the U.S. Congress for eradicating hunger and improving childhood nutrition. His Hunger Free Schools Act, which would help reduce paperwork and enroll more students in childhood nutrition programs through direct certification, was the centerpiece of the anti-hunger component of the bill passed today. Brown’s bill would help more families enroll in the national school lunch program, one of the most important programs designed to alleviate childhood hunger. More than 23 million children received assistance during the 2007 school year through the free or reduced-price school lunch program. A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, however, found that in 20 states, up to 20 percent of eligible children are not getting enrolled. For these students and for many school administrators, the often complicated and redundant application process deters potential enrollment. Brown’s legislation would utilize direct certification- a streamlined approach to determining family eligibility- to enroll more students in nutrition programs. This approach relies on existing data and is utilized to promote broader participation in the national school lunch program. Brown’s bill would help directly enroll children whose families receive assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and Medicaid, into the school lunch program.

During today’s debate, Brown successfully passed two bipartisan amendments to the legislation.

Summer Nutrition Service Support Grants: This bipartisan amendment, offered with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) to ensure greater access to summer feeding programs for children. The amendment would provide grants to states to help develop new and innovative ways to retain summer feeding program sponsors. By retaining more providers, sites become established in their communities and children have reliable access to summer programs year after year.

Organic Food Pilot Program: This amendment, offered with Senator Leahy (D-VT) authorizes a pilot program to provide affordable organic choices in school feeding programs. This program is a crucial first step in proving the viability and value of organic foods in the over 30 million school lunches served each day. Proving that organic products can be effectively and economically incorporated into national children’s feeding programs is long overdue. Historically, price has been a barrier to organic foods entering the school feeding programs; however, in recent years, the unprecedented growth in the organic industry has resulted in lower prices, allowing organic food to be a viable option for school children.

A copy of Brown’s opening statement from today’s hearing follows, along with a summary of the legislation.

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