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Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act

Release No.

USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today issued the following statement regarding House passage of S. 3307 "The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act."

"This is an historic victory for our nation's youngsters. This legislation will allow USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children.

"When President Obama first asked me to be the Secretary of Agriculture, he identified healthier school meals as one my top priorities and together with First Lady Michelle Obama's Lets Move! initiative, this administration has made it a goal to end childhood obesity within in a generation

"Our national security, economic competitiveness and health and wellness of our children will improve as a result of the action Congress took today."

"I applaud Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer, Chairman Miller, and Chairwoman DeLauro for their leadership on this legislation."

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act includes the following provisions which USDA will begin implementing after President Obama signs the legislation:

  • Upgrading nutritional standards for school meals by increasing the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches by 6 cents for districts who comply with federal nutrition standards. This is the first real reimbursement rate increase in over 30 years.
  • Improving the nutritional quality of all food in schools by providing USDA with the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools, including in vending machines, the "a la carte" lunch lines, and school stores.
  • Increases the number of eligible children enrolled in the school meals programs by using Medicaid data to directly certify children who meet income requirements without requiring individual applications connecting approximately 115,000 new students to the school meals program.
  • Enhances universal meal access for eligible children in high poverty communities by eliminating paper applications and using census data to determine school wide income eligibility.
  • Provides more meals for at-risk children nationwide by allowing Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) providers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to be reimbursed for providing a meal to at-risk children after school paving the way for an additional 21 million meals to children annually.
  • Empowering parents by requiring schools to make information more readily available to parents about the nutritional quality of school meals, as well as the results of any audits.
  • Improving the quality of foods supplied to schools by building on and further advancing the work USDA has been doing to improve the nutritional quality of the commodities that schools get from USDA and use in their lunch and breakfast programs.
  • Improving WIC by making it easier for children to get recertified as eligible for the program, requiring greater use of EBT technology (debit cards), and expanding support for breastfeeding.


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Release No.

USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

Schools Meet First Lady's HealthierUS School Challenge Goal with Over 1250 Receiving Honors for Expanding Nutrition and Physical Activity Opportunities'

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2011 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined First Lady Michelle Obama to honor schools taking part in USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge. The First Lady hosted a reception on the South Lawn to honor the 1,273 schools that met her goal to double the number of participants in the Challenge in a year. The Challenge recognizes schools that create healthier school environments by providing exceptional nutrition education, nutritious food and beverage choices, physical education and opportunities for physical activity.

"Educators see firsthand the impact that childhood obesity has on our children's lives -not just on their physical and emotional health, but on their academic success as well. That's why our nation's educators have been leaders in this movement to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in America," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "Today, we're not just thanking these educators, but encouraging them to continue that leadership, to reach out and help other schools by sharing good ideas and best practices, and encouraging and inspiring each other. The HealthierUS Schools Competition is a competition every school in America can win. And when our schools win, our kids win and our country wins."

"Achieving the HealthierUS School Challenge recognition demonstrates a school's deep commitment to create and maintain a healthy school environment," Vilsack said. "The schools we are recognizing today have already made great progress toward meeting the school meals improvements set forth in the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act - and can serve as models for others seeking to make improvements. By providing access to nutritious foods and promoting physical activity in our schools, we can reinforce the healthy habits that many parents are already teaching at home and help our children reach their full potential."

The HealthierUS School Challenge is a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation. In February 2010, USDA and the First Lady called on stakeholders to double the number of Challenge schools - a goal reached in June 2011 - and add 1,000 schools per year for two years after that.

The Challenge schools honored at the White House voluntarily agreed to provide healthy meals based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, including a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain foods, and fat-free or low fat milk. Challenge schools also have to agree to provide nutrition education and to provide opportunities for physical activity. Schools participating in the Challenge are recognized with Gold Award of Distinction, Gold, Silver, or Bronze-level certification. Click here to view a full list of Challenge schools.

Improving child nutrition is also the focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed into law by President Obama in December 2010. The legislation reauthorized the National School Lunch Program and USDA's other child nutrition programs. The Act allows USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to school meals and increase access to these critical programs.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the child nutrition programs, which touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.


Release No.

USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

WASHINGTON, February 14, 2011 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today made the following statement on the proposed FY 2012 budget:

"President Obama and I share a vision for building an economy that works for all Americans; one that makes, creates, innovates and expands the middle class.

"Since coming to office, we have taken important steps to avoid the potential economic collapse, turning around the economy to create private sector jobs each month for the past year. At President Obama's direction, USDA focused on stimulating growth, creating jobs, and setting in place a framework for a robust future for the rural economy: investing in new technologies like broadband, opening new markets for agricultural producers, supporting production of renewable energy and making better use of our natural resources.

"But as President Obama said in his State of the Union address, these are challenging times. We face tough competition from countries around the world. We need to step up our efforts and get serious about winning the future.

"Our goal must be to lay a foundation for sustainable economic growth and job creation by out-educating, out-building, and out-innovating our competitors. At the same time, we cannot ignore growing deficits accumulated over the past decade through increased spending and tax cuts without offsets. To afford the strategic investments we need to grow the economy in the long term while also tackling the deficit, this budget makes difficult cuts to programs the President and I care about. It looks to properly manage deficit reduction while preserving the values that matter to Americans.

"USDA already showed our commitment to deficit reduction by providing $4 billion last year to help pay down the debt through negotiation of an agreement with crop insurance companies. Our proposed FY 2012 budget cuts discretionary funding to $24 billion, about $2 billion below our FY 2011 request.

"In this budget, we are cutting programs not because we want to, but because we have to. American families have been forced to tighten their belts and government must do the same. The budget fulfills the President's pledge to completely eliminate earmarks. We are promoting good government and streamlining agency operations in a host of programs. And we have reduced or terminated selected programs.

"In the end we must cut to grow. And we are working to do it as responsibly as possible for American agriculture and the American people.

"At the same time, we are making investments to lay a foundation for a successful future for agriculture and for the American people. This budget includes targeted investments and program increases in key areas to support job creation and economic competitiveness. We will invest in research to spur innovation, promote exports, support renewable energy and conservation, and enhance critical infrastructure in rural communities.

"We are proposing some targeted reductions in farm program payments which would save $2.5 billion over 10 years, while only affecting 2 percent of participants. These savings would come on top of earlier work to institute procedural improvements that reduced the error rate in payments from 2 percent to under 0.1 percent, as well as a partnership with the IRS to eliminate improper payments to high-wealth individuals. At the same time, we are pursuing strategies to grow the next generation of farmers.

"Just as importantly, this budget pursues priorities that will spur job creation and innovation in rural America.

"Increasing exports is critical to growing our economy – every billion in increased exports supports 8,000 American jobs. To support President Obama's National Export Initiative, we will provide an additional $20 million to help expand agricultural trade.

"To promote the domestic production of renewable energy, we invest in renewable energy programs related to commercialization; research and development; education and outreach; and energy efficiency and conservation. We are also focusing our loans to rural electric cooperatives to support the development of clean burning low emission fossil fuel facilities and renewable energy deployment. Developing a nation-wide renewable energy industry will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in rural America, while helping us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and reducing risks to our environment.

"Overall, we propose cutting our Rural Development budget by $535 million, reflecting targeted reductions and eliminations of programs. The most important thing we can do to support thriving rural economies is to provide credit to entrepreneurs and communities – which is why we will better target our investments to high growth rural businesses. And to out-build rival nations – and at no cost to the taxpayer – we are more than tripling our direct loan support to help communities build and repair hundreds of hospitals, libraries, and police and fire stations.

"Our budget also recognizes that successful and effective rural economic development will occur on a regional basis. Rural communities have different attributes, and when they find ways to connect and cluster their economies geographically and based on these strengths they are able to efficiently increase productivity and build more robust, sustainable economies. Despite the overall reduction in funding, our budget for Rural Development works through existing programs to fund regional pilot projects, strategic planning activities, and other investments to improve rural economies on a regional basis.

"To reform USDA so it's leaner, more efficient and ready for the 21st century, we will support efforts to better streamline operations and deliver results – at lower cost – for the American people. While many of our payment programs are operating at historic levels of accuracy, this budget continues to support efforts to reduce improper payments. We have cut $80 million in administrative expenses from across the Department including travel, shipping, printing, advisory contracts and supplies. This budget establishes a training program to help our procurement officers make the best use of taxpayer dollars. It looks to reduce staffing in areas that are seeing program cuts, or where we have created new process efficiencies. We are also seeking to recover the cost of operating a number of programs by collecting user fees from those that directly benefit from the services being provided. And we invest in IT to modernize critical systems in our Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Rural Development agencies.

"This budget will help drive innovation by investing in basic and applied science. While we have eliminated all earmarks in our research programs – saving $183 million – we have proposed a 24% increase in funding for our competitive grants program to support the most worthy projects. Our in-house research programs are re-directing nearly $59 million to higher priority research areas like agricultural production, food safety, and building a green economy.

"We are also focused on raising a healthier generation of young people who will enter our classrooms ready to get the world-class education they'll need to out-compete the rest of the globe. This budget ensures that all of America's children have access to safe, nutritious, and balanced meals. It fully funds the expected participation in all the Department's major nutrition assistance programs including WIC, the National School Lunch Program, and SNAP and the improvements implemented in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. It restores the SNAP benefit from the Recovery Act. It also makes appropriate investments to help us continue to improve the safety of the food Americans eat each day.

"This budget increases support for various Farm Bill conservation programs, including CRP, on 335 million acres – an average increase of 20 million acres annually since 2009. These programs provide critical benefits to the American people, filtering our water, cleaning our air and improving our wildlife habitats. For our National Forests, this budget improves the ability to restore forest resiliency and health, while supporting sustainable economic development and job-creation essential to growth in rural America.

"All told, this budget takes important steps to grow the economy while taking our responsibility for our deficit. The targeted investments we are making will be critical to building a robust economy for years to come. There are serious trade-offs in this budget, but by focusing on programs with the greatest potential to drive innovation, build critical infrastructure, and generate job growth, we will set this nation on a path to out-compete our rivals and win the future."

Release No.

Jennifer Martin (202) 720-8188

<p><strong style="font-family: Verdana; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; text-align: center; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">Investment in prevention program comes on 1st anniversary of First Lady&#39;s Let&#39;s Move! initiative</strong></p>

RALEIGH, N.C., Feb. 9, 2011 –Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today visited North Carolina State University (NCSU) to announce a grant to develop an obesity prevention program that increases access to healthy food and safe places for physical activity. The announcement was delivered as part of the first anniversary of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative.

"One year ago, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let's Move! initiative with a goal of solving childhood obesity within a generation so that kids born today will grow up healthier and better able to pursue their dreams," Merrigan said. "Today we build on that commitment with an investment in research that will help prevent obesity which can help create healthier communities and families in North Carolina and across the country."

USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded $3,026,939 to NCSU researcher Sarah Bowen, who will work to gain a better understanding of how the "food environment" — which includes social, cultural, political, economic and environmental factors — affects patterns of childhood obesity.

Most of the recent research on obesity has focused on individual eating behaviors. While this research is important, it often ignores the sociological challenges behind childhood obesity. This project will address the wider structural factors that contribute to the drastic increases in obesity, particularly among low-income populations. Looking at all environmental factors will help drive community-led proposals for concrete environmental and policy changes to address these challenges.

The project will interview low-income mothers about their food practices and perceptions to understand how they promote childhood obesity. The research will then be incorporated into the Faithful Families project, a special project of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, to work with community leaders and organizations to develop community-driven, culturally appropriate environmental and policy changes that increase access to healthy foods and safe places for physical activity within communities.

Improving child nutrition is the legislative centerpiece of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that passed Congress and was signed by President Obama on December 13, 2010. This legislation authorizes USDA's child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program, which serves nearly 32 million children each day. It will allow USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children. This Obama administration priority is fundamentally changing the conversation about how we eat and stay active, helping to ensure future generations are ready to win the future. Learn more by visiting

USDA's NIFA made the award through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) funding opportunity. AFRI is NIFA's flagship competitive grant program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. AFRI supports work in six priority areas: 1) plant health and production and plant products; 2) animal health and production and animal products; 3) food safety, nutrition and health; 4) renewable energy, natural resources and environment; 5) agriculture systems and technology; and 6) agriculture economics and rural communities.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. More information is available at:

Release No.

usda Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

Provision Expands Safety Net against Childhood Hunger and Promotes Healthy Lifestyles

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2011 – USDA today announced that children placed into the foster care system by a state or court are categorically eligible to receive free meals in all USDA child nutrition programs. The expansion of categorical eligibility to foster children is a component of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 which President Obama signed into law December 13, 2010.

"Ensuring all children receive nutritious meals at school and through other child nutrition programs is a top priority for the Obama administration and a key step toward winning a healthy future for the next generation of Americans, " said Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon. "Categorical eligibility is a vital tool to simplify and expedite enrolling eligible children in school meal programs."

HHS' Administration for Children and Families' (ACF), which partnered with USDA in today's announcement, administers grants for foster care, runs the federal Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) and oversees state child welfare agencies. ACF stressed the importance of helping foster children and families have better access to school lunches.

"Ensuring foster children have access to healthy, balanced and nutritious meals without the burden of unnecessary eligibility paperwork shows our commitment in providing the best quality of life for many deserving children and their families," said David A. Hansell, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families.

According to the most current AFCARS report, there were approximately 423,773 children in the U. S. in foster care on September 30, 2009. This new provision will help reduce administrative burdens on states, schools and those foster care families by certifying eligible foster children for free meals in the National School Lunch and other Child Nutrition Programs without the need for an application. The National School Lunch Program serves nearly 32 million children nutritious meals each school day and is a critical component of the national nutrition safety net that safeguards children against hunger.

"This is just one of many critical provisions in the recently passed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that provide kids greater access to healthy food and a more healthful lifestyle," said Concannon. "We look forward to working with our schools and our other essential partners across the country as we continue to implement this important Act."

Improving child nutrition is the focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed by President Obama in December 2010. The legislation authorizes USDA'S child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Summer Food Service Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. The Act allows USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children, and help a new generation win the future by having healthier lives. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Initiative.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the child nutrition programs. For implementation guidance relating to the Categorical Eligibility of Foster Children provision visit