President Obama is expected to shortly sign into law childhood-nutrition legislation backed by his wife, Michelle, after the bill easily cleared the House, 264-157, on Thursday.
The bill unanimously passed the Senate in August. It was expected to pass the House on Wednesday, but Democratic leaders pulled it because of a Republican amendment that would have required criminal background checks for child care workers and the removal of the federal mandate for paid meals in schools. The amendment seemed likely to pass.
The $4.5 billion bill was introduced by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.). It expands eligibility for school meals 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.
The bill was a priority for first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle Obama5 ways politics could steal the show at Oscars Why cutting back ‘free’ school lunches would be a favor to families Instagram taps former Michelle Obama, Clinton aide to lead communications MORE and her Let's Move! campaign to fight childhood obesity.
Children's and health advocates applauded the bill's passage.
"The legislation, which enjoyed broad bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate, will give our kids a healthy start in life with access to nutritious meals and more opportunities for physical activity during the school day," said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown. "Removing junk food and sugary beverages from school vending machines and à la carte lines and strengthening wellness policies are necessary steps to help kids achieve and maintain a healthy weight."