Advocates continue press for childhood nutrition bill

More than 90 advocacy organizations sent a letter Monday to House Education and Labor Chair George Miller (D-Calif.) urging a vote on childhood nutrition legislation before the federal program expires Thursday.

"Some of the key provisions in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act for reducing obesity and supporting healthy eating by children include, updated nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, increased lunch reimbursements, and training to help schools serve healthier meals," reads the letter. "The bill includes a number of provisions to expand access to child nutrition programs for hungry kids, including expansion of afterschool meals for at-risk children and improvements to direct certification to enroll more low-income children for free meals. The bill is bipartisan and fully paid for."

The signees include the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association and the American Public Health Association.

They want the House to pass the Senate's $4.5 billion bill, but liberal Democrats and some anti-poverty advocates are balking at a $2 billion future cut in food stamps to pay for the bill. The groups are increasingly defending the reauthorization as a key tool to fight childhood obesity — the goal espoused by first lady Michelle Obama in her Let's Move campaign.

The Senate bill, championed by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), 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 passed by unanimous consent just before the August recess.