- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Obama administration will ask Congress to improve childhood nutrition by ridding school vending machines of sugary snacks and drinks and giving school lunch and breakfast to more students.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the administration will seek changes when Congress overhauls the Childhood Nutrition Act, first passed in 1966.

“Our children deserve better nutrition, and our country’s better and brighter future depends on it,” Mr. Vilsack said. “And with the reauthorization of the Childhood Nutrition Act scheduled this year, there won’t be a better time than now to act boldly.”

Mr. Vilsack’s comments were in a speech he was to deliver Monday, outlining the administration’s goals for school nutrition. His appearance was canceled because of snow.

But excerpts from the planned speech outline changes the administration plans to seek in the Childhood Nutrition Act this year. A Vilsack spokesman said the speech would be rescheduled.

Child nutrition and obesity have emerged as key issues for the Obama administration. First lady Michelle Obama plans to launch her own campaign against childhood obesity on Tuesday.

Mr. Vilsack outlined changes that include a push to jettison cookies, cakes, pastries and salty food from school vending machines and cafeteria lines. The secretary said schools need to help youngsters eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

“Food served in vending machines and the a la carte line shouldn’t undermine our efforts to enhance the health of the school environment,” he said. “We must have the capacity to set standards for all the foods served and sold in schools.”

The administration also wants to enroll more children in school lunch programs and boost the number of schools offering breakfast. Mr. Vilsack said the administration would also push for bigger reimbursements for schools serving breakfast.

In addition, the administration is seeking to link local farmers with school cafeterias and improve parent and student education about nutrition.

Lawmakers from both parties have expressed interest in promoting better child nutrition. Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, senior Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, met last week with Mrs. Obama to discuss the issue. Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas Democrat, is expected to bring up reauthorization for the Childhood Nutrition Act in the coming weeks.

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