The US Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, passed legislation out of their Committee to reauthorize WIC and the other Child Nutrition Programs last week. It’s called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The bill includes the reauthorization of the free and reduced lunch and breakfast programs.  I was in DC a couple of weeks ago to talk to the delegation about this upcoming reauthorization- urging better nutritional standards for the breakfast & lunch programs.

The bill was amended in the Senate to include elements of our Empower Pack! The Amendment directs the US Secretary of Agriculture to work with the Secretary of HHS to encourage state licensing agencies to include wellness standards within state licensing standards in order to ensure that licensed and regulated child care centers and family child care homes provide physical activity opportunities, limit screen time and offer food consistent with the healthy meals patterns and nutrition standards.

More than 31M school kids participate in the National School Lunch Program and 11M qualify for the School Breakfast Program.  Many children get ½ of their daily calories at schools- making this program a great leverage point to improve nutrition for kids by placing more rigorous nutrition standards on the foods that are served in the program.

Some key language in the Act is on Page 64, where the bill states that: “not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this paragraph, the (USDA) Secretary shall promulgate proposed regulations to update the meal patterns and nutrition standards for the school lunch program authorized under this Act and the school breakfast program… based on recommendations made by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).” The bill also includes provisions for schools that participate in the program to implement wellness policies that address physical activity.

If it passed as-is, the USDA would establish new free lunch and breakfast standards by rule.  Since the bill (at least right now) says that the standards should be based on the NAS Food and Nutrition Board… that document would become important.  It’s not expressly stated, but it looks to me like the bill might be referring to the Review of Child and Adult Care Food Program Meal Requirements that the Board is working on.