WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives has passed the child nutrition act sent to it by the Senate in late summer. The "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act" [S. 3307] cleared the House by a vote of 264 to 157. President Obama is expected to sign it promptly.
The bill, which had been championed in the upper house by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), is designed to improve the nutritional standard of meals served under the national school lunch and breakfast programs, in which more than 30 million schoolchildren participate each day, and to set standards for food and beverages served in schools outside those programs.
Among its provisions is an increase in the reimbursement to schools, adding 6¢ per lunch to help offset the cost of purchasing "healthier" food. While this rate has been adjusted continually for inflation, it has not been increased in three decades.
The act also expands eligibility for free and reduced-price lunches and breakfasts, restricts the sale of items through school stores, a la carte lines and vending machines to those that meet dietary guidelines specified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and includes a number of provisions designed to tighten food safety measures.
A uniform federal standard for product sold through school vending machines could prove beneficial for everyone concerned, said Ned Monroe, the National Automatic Merchandising Association's senior vice-president of government affairs.
"This may help vending operators and product manufacturers, since there will soon be one national standard rather than a patchwork of state and local nutritional guidelines," Monroe observed. "In addition, it does not ban vending machines from school grounds, as some activists occasionally recommend."
It also may prove valuable in giving the industry welcome assistance in rebutting the "junk food" canard. [see story]