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The food fight is over -- at least for Jamie Oliver. The school nutrition bill that he’s been lobbying for as a part of his Food Revolution movement and TV series is on its way to becoming a law. The House of Representatives passed the comprehensive child nutrition bill, named The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, on Thursday to help bring more healthful meal options to children while they’re in school.
Once signed by President Obama, the measure will provide more money to low-income communities to subsidize free meals to children; require schools to follow health guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture; increase reimbursements to schools to help cancel out the higher cost of including more fruits and vegetables; and require free water to be available wherever food is served. The bill will do all this by boosting spending on child nutrition by $4.5 billion over the next 10 years. This is the first non-inflation-based raise in funding for school lunches in 30 years.
First Lady Michelle Obama, who supports the bill as a part of her Let’s Move childhood obesity campaign, said in a written statement that she was “thrilled” to have the House’s backing in what she called “a groundbreaking piece of bipartisan legislation that will significantly improve the quality of meals that children receive at school and will play an integral role in our efforts to combat childhood obesity.”
Approved unanimously by the Senate in August, the bill passed in the House 264 to 157, with 17 Republicans crossing party lines to vote in favor of the measure. Four Democrats opposed the bill. Democrat opponents were dismayed that the White House would push so strongly for an initiative whose funding comes, in part, through a $2.2 billion cut to the federal food stamp program SNAP. Republicans called the measure expensive and an example of an “unsustainable level of government spending.”
The new bill will make 115,000 more children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, and increase school reimbursements by six cents per meal. School breakfasts, lunches and snacks will be required to adhere to federally set nutrition guidelines. Schools will also be required to eliminate junk food from menus and vending machines.
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