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Countdown is on to Pass Child Nutrition Bill

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Twenty eight days remain for Congress to authorize nutrition programs that would curb the obesity crisis for more than 32 million children. Senator Blanche Lincoln's Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act stands to drastically improve the long term health of our children by improving the nutritional quality of all foods served on school campuses. It is fully paid for, urgently needed, and widely supported. In fact, this bill received unanimous, bipartisan support in Committee this March. In May, more than 53 members of the Senate signed a bipartisan letter of support for the bill. And today, as the Senate approaches the August recess, there is no better time to bring this bill to the floor.

The consequences of inaction would be too troubling to imagine. With nearly one in three children overweight or obese, today's kids face a lifetime full of chronic disease stemming from obesity. In fact, by the time America's children become adults, they are significantly more likely to develop diabetes, osteoarthritis, stroke, dementia, heart disease and even many forms of cancer. As a result, they may live shorter lifespans than their parents.

Yet, with unprecedented challenge, Congress also has an unprecedented opportunity to act. This bill aims to reverse such an alarming trend by making healthy decisions second nature for our children. Making more nutritious foods more accessible throughout school campuses and reducing less nutritious options is a simple, tangible step towards giving our youth a fair shot at good health. Millions of children rely on federal food programs as their primary source of nutrition, and there is no reason that the food we provide them cannot consist of more apples and fewer French fries.

Additionally, the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act reduces the bureaucratic red tape that currently prevents too many families getting the meals they are eligible to receive. No child should go hungry or malnourished because of bureaucratic backlogs.

When it comes to reversing the obesity epidemic, the old adage is true: the best offense is a good defense. We can begin to reverse the obesity epidemic --which accounts for $147 billion in health care costs each year-- by taking a proactive approach to good health from an early age. Our schools must be models of good nutrition. Our federal food programs must facilitate healthy eating. And our campuses must make healthy foods more accessible.

These principles have the endorsement of the First Lady's Let's Move Campaign and the President's inter-agency Task Force on Childhood Obesity. They face no stated opposition in the Senate. And they are concepts that have resounding support from the community and groups like the Campaign to End Obesity, who advocate for a healthier America.

Extending current law again would not go far enough for our children. However, if action is taken quickly, we have a real opportunity to not only improve the access and quality of nutritious foods, but to create landmark initiatives that will sustain the next generation of our youth.

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