Washington, D.C. – As the House of Representatives unveiled their Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, along with six of her colleagues, sent a letter to Senate Leaders, urging them to overhaul the Senate version of the legislation to include a significant increase in the reimbursement rate for school meals. Joining Senator Gillibrand are Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).
In their letter to Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senators wrote, “While the current bill represents a good start, we want to work with you to find more funds in order to increase the lunch reimbursement rate, lower the threshold to 40 percent, and – at a minimum – match the President’s recommendation of $10 billion for child nutrition. In order to really address the national crisis of obesity and hunger, we need $40 billion for child nutrition reauthorization – the right investment in our children’s health, as well as a long-term solution to the $650 billion a year cost of obesity and cardiovascular disease.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over the last 30 years, obesity among American children ages 6 to 11 has more than doubled – from 6.5 percent to 17 percent. In the same timeframe, obesity among 12 to 19-year-olds has more than tripled – from 5 percent to nearly 18 percent.
The CDC also estimates that obesity costs America nearly $150 billion each year in health care costs. Cardiovascular disease alone, now found in children as young as 8 years old, costs America $500 billion each year.
Childhood obesity can lead to lower test scores in school and serious health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression.
The Senator’s full letter to Senators Reid and McConnell is below:
The Honorable Harry Reid The Honorable Mitch McConnellMajority Leader Minority Leader United States Senate United States Senate Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senators Reid and McConnell,
We write to you today to draw your attention to the critical importance of passing the strongest possible Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill. A recent USDA report found that 16 percent of households with children in the US reported food insecurity. In the richest country in the world, having so many hungry kids is unacceptable. At the same time, poor nutrition has caused obesity rates to skyrocket, which is costly and has been identified by the Army as a national security threat. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, must be bolstered and passed this year to adequately address this crisis of health, hunger, and defense in our country.
Currently, 17% of our nation’s children are obese. We share the Administration’s goal of reducing the childhood obesity rate to just 5% by 2030, which was the level before it first began to rise in the late 1970s. The Centers for Disease and Control estimates that obesity costs nearly $150 billion a year in healthcare costs. Cardiovascular disease, which we are now finding early stages of in children as young as 8, costs our country $500 billion a year. We must act now to improve access to and quality of the food we serve in our child nutrition programs to address these costly health problems.
The Institute of Medicine’s report states that we must increase the reimbursement rate for the school lunch program so that schools can serve the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain-rich foods recommended by the USDA. According to IOM, menu costs are expected to increase by 4% at a minimum (10 cents more than the current lunch cost of $2.68), and more realistically 9% (24 cents more). School food service directors attest to the need for an increase of 70 cents to provide healthy, nutritious lunches. The Agriculture Committee passed bill includes a 6 cent increase. Additionally, the bill should include a provision to improve the area eligibility threshold to participate in afterschool, summer nutrition, and child care food programs if 40 percent of the children in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. The current 50 percent threshold is too high and inhibits these programs’ ability to reach many families in need.
While the current bill represents a good start, we want to work with you to find more funds in order to increase the lunch reimbursement rate, lower the threshold to 40%, and – at a minimum – match the President’s recommendation of $10 billion for child nutrition. In order to really address the national crisis of obesity and hunger, we need $40 billion for child nutrition reauthorization – the right investment in our children’s health, as well as a long-term solution to the $650 billion a year cost of obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to working with you to reauthorize the strongest possible child nutrition bill during this Congress.