House expected to take up Senate's childhood nutrition bill

The House could take up the Senate's $4.5 billion childhood nutrition bill as early as Friday, advocates tell The Hill.

House members favored a more generous, $8 billion bill sponsored by Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif). But with time running out - child nutrition programs expire at the end of the month - they've apparently decided to pass the Senate version, which passed that chamber by unanimous consent last month.

Sponsored by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), the Senate bill: expands eligibility for school meal programs; establishes nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools; and provides a 6-cent increase for each school lunch to help cafeterias serve healthier meals.

"It is a terrific bill that we, many health groups, and the Administration support," said Margo Wootan, director of Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

But other advocates are balking at the $2 billion cut in the federal food stamp program, starting in Oct. 2013, that would pay for the bill.

"George Orwell would appreciate the irony: The child nutrition bill that could come up for a vote in the House as early as this week would actually take food from the mouths of children," said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, writing in The Hill.