This was a vote on final passage of legislation expanding eligibility for subsidized school lunches for low-income children, and implementing stricter nutritional standards for food served in schools.
Under the bill, foster children would become automatically eligible for the school lunch program (in which students are provided with a free lunch subsidized by the federal government). In order to streamline the process of enrolling children in the school lunch program, the measure reduced the amount of paperwork required to sign up for free meals. The bill also established a grant program to increase participation among schools in the national school breakfast program.
The bill directed the Agriculture Department to establish nutritional standards for all food sold in schools – including products in vending machines. The measure also implemented an organic food pilot program (to serve organic food in public schools).
Rep. George Miller (D-CA) urged support for the bill: “…Today I rise for our nation's children, for the poorest children in our country who are hungry and malnourished. I rise because children need our help. Child nutrition is not a political issue. It's not a partisan issue. It's a question of what's a moral thing to do for our children. It's about being on the right side of history and ensuring a healthy and productive future for our country. Our children will make and determine our future, and that is what is at stake.”
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) also argued in favor of the bill: “As a nurse for over 30 years, I have seen firsthand the risks and illnesses that can result from obesity. Childhood obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are all on the rise in the United States. And one of the best tools we have to combat these illnesses is our ability to apply wholesome and healthy nutrition to children in our schools…Given the current harsh financial realities for many families in my district and throughout the nation, schools have an increasingly important role to play in providing children with nutritious food during their days.”
Rep. John Kline argued that an expansion of child nutrition programs was unaffordable: “Each of us must make that choice as we cast our votes on the bill before us. Everyone recognizes the importance of extending child nutrition programs, but extending these programs does not mean expanding them. We could extend these programs and improve them with no added cost to taxpayers. We could listen to our constituents and do right by our children.”
Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) criticized the measure: “I'm a medical doctor, and I have spent almost four decades of practicing medicine concerned about child nutrition and about the health of my patients.…But this act is not about child nutrition.…This is about more government control. This is not about healthy children. It's about borrowing more money and putting our children in greater debt. It's not about creating a better environment for children in the schools. It's about more and more control from Washington, DC.”
The House passed this child nutrition bill by a vote of 264-157. 247 Democrats and 17 Republicans voted “yea.” 153 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation expanding eligibility for subsidized school lunches for low-income children, and implementing stricter nutritional standards for food served in schools.