17 Million Children Cannot Wait for Better Nutrition

12/02/2010 12:03 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Feeding America and our partners in the hunger-relief and nutrition community have been diligently working to make sure that Congress passes the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S. 3307). The renewal of child nutrition programs has been batted around for more than two years. The House was expected to vote on the bill today, but the vote was postponed until tomorrow after a "poison pill" amendment was offered.

The amendment, a motion to recommit, would send the bill back to committee and then back to the Senate. With just a few legislative days left this year, that move would effectively kill the bill and, with it, any chance of improving the nutrition and availability of child hunger programs for years.

With one in four children at risk of hunger and one in three overweight or obese, our children cannot afford to wait another year for better nutrition. Congress must not delay action on the child nutrition bill any longer.

Here are three important reasons why Members of Congress should oppose the motion to recommit and support the bill:

1. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will reduce child hunger. While child nutrition programs provide a nutritional lifeline for millions of low-income children, some still go hungry simply because the programs do not reach all eligible children. Of the more than 19 million low-income children participating in free or reduced-price lunch, fewer than half access breakfast programs and just 16 percent access summer feeding sites. By improving eligible children's access to nutrition programs, especially those that fill gap periods like weekends, summer and afterschool, the bill will reduce child hunger.

2. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will promote children's health and prevent obesity. National school nutrition standards are out of step with current science, meaning kids don't always receive the good nutrition they deserve. With one in three children overweight or obese, we need to ensure that programs that serve over 40 million children each school day are providing the best nutrition possible. By updating nutrition standards and providing schools with additional resources, the bill will enable schools to provide children the fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods they need to grow, learn, and play.

3. Child nutrition programs are a sound investment. The United States spends $147 billion each year in excess medical costs treating obesity-related diseases, like diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and the annual cost of our nation's hunger problem is estimated at over $90 billion per year. Food insecure children have reduced health and educational outcomes and are 30 percent more likely to be hospitalized. Obesity rates in the U.S. have tripled over the last 40 years, and the medical costs for an obese person are 42 percent higher than for a person of normal weight. By investing a modest $4.5 billion over 10 years to increase children's access to healthy meals, the bill will help prevent child hunger and obesity and their associated costs.

I find it hard to believe that it is so difficult to pass a bill that would provide food-relief to our most vulnerable children and improve nutrition for all children. Knowing the tremendous benefits this investment in child nutrition programs will create, Congress must not wait another day to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. When the bill goes to the House floor for a vote on Thursday, Feeding America urges members of the House to vote "no" on the Motion to Recommit and "yes" on S.3307.