Calls provision allowing school lunch equipment purchases "wasteful spending"
August 31, 2010 (Washington D.C.) – Congressman Duncan D. Hunter (R-El Cajon) , a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, voted against sending H.R. 5504, the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act, to the full House for consideration.
The bill aims to make school lunches more nutritious and get junk food out of schools. The goal is to improve children's health and cut down on childhood obesity, a national epidemic. From 1980 to 2009, childhood obesity in America has tripled--and poor nutritional habits are largely to blame. In California, 30.5% of all children are obese, putting them at higher risk of diabetes and heart problems later on.
The bill also includes $100 million for National Schools Lunch Program equipment grants to enable schools to purchase food service equipment.
“With taxpayers already investing $20 billion each year in child nutrition, the legislation would add another $8 billion in new federal spending,” said Hunter in a newslettter to constituents. He added, "Families are making tough choices in today's economy. For many it might not be the best time to purchase new kitchen appliances. They are making do with what they have. The federal government should follow the same example."
The conservative Congressman offered an amendment to remove the equipment grants from the legislation and said he voted for an alternative measure that failed. “I intend to continue working to eliminate unnecessary and wasteful spending from the federal budget,” said Hunter, who voted against the bill after his amendment failed.
According to the Congressional Budget Office analysis, the measure makes numerous changes to current law including:
• Requiring private companies selling food on a school campus during the school day to comply with nutrition standards set by the Secretary of Agriculture;
• Increase federal reimbursements to schools by 6 cents starting in 2013 if lunches and breakfasts served meet scientifically established nutrition standards
• Make it easier for poor students to receive meals through direct certification of children in families receiving Medicaid and military families
• Authorize a pilot school nutrition program for summer months in 10 states
Total cost of the program is estimated at $2 billion for the next four years, 2011-2015, and $6.5 billion over the 2011-2020 period, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Potentially, some federal costs could be offset, however, by savings on medical expenses if the program succeeds in improving children’s health and reducing obesity.