WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate approved the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which adds $4.5 billion over 10 years for federal child nutrition programs such as school lunches.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, and ranking member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said the measure provides the first non-inflationary increase in the federal reimbursement rate for school lunch programs since 1973.
"In this budget environment, with record deficits, we have been able to produce a bill that is fully paid for and will not add a dime to the deficit," Lincoln says in a statement.
The bill requires the secretary of agriculture to establish -- via a transparent regulatory process -- national nutrition standards consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for all foods sold on school campuses throughout the school day.
First lady Michelle Obama, a supporter of the bill, made a last-minute push for the bill with an op-ed in the Washington Post Monday, reflecting on her work with children in the White House garden and the Let's Move campaign to reduce childhood obesity, officials of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington say.
"The last thing parents need or want is to see the progress they're making at home lost during the school day," the first lady wrote. "Right now, our country has a major opportunity to make our schools and our children healthier."
The House needs to pass its version of the legislation and have the two bills conferenced before the program expires Sept. 30.