WASHINGTON, D.C. | July 14, 2010
I do not believe that as a nation, we should choose between renewing our vital support of child nutrition and our desperate need to get our fiscal house in order. If there is one thing we have learned over the last year, it is that the American people are tired of government growth and spending that leaves a mountain of debt on our children’s doorsteps.
The Republican substitute ensures we meet the needs of millions of low-income children and other vulnerable Americans – and that we do it in a fiscally responsible way. House Republicans are committed to modernizing the nation’s child nutrition programs and enacting commonsense solutions that will better serve eligible children and families.
School lunches, breakfasts, and daily snacks are important, but we know the quality of the food is as important as the quantity. Taxpayers expect meals that reach a child’s plate to meet a high standard of nutritional value. As we learned at our committee hearing two weeks ago, far too often federal dollars have not led to healthier children, and as stewards of the public money we have a responsibility to do better.
That is why the Republican substitute applies the latest dietary guidelines to school meals, including milk. We also strengthen food safety protections through needed improvements to the food recall process, better ensuring unsafe foods are not served to children. Finally, the Republican substitute offers parents greater flexibility to request alternatives to milk in school meals – a small but important step that would make it easier for children with dietary restrictions to participate in school meal programs.
The Republican alternative also renews our commitment to nutritional support and education for new and expectant mothers and their children. We update the eligibility standards by extending the child certification period to one year, bringing greater parity across the program. And by demanding a more frequent review of the foods included in the WIC program, we help to ensure low-income women and children are given access to healthy foods.
Extending these programs is an important step, but so is modernizing the system to deliver assistance in a more streamlined process and give taxpayers greater bang for their hard-earned buck. To meet these goals, the Republican alternative proposal adopts a number of important reforms, such as improvements to the auditing process, requiring the creation of an electronic benefits transfer system in all 50 states, and allowing for an independent review of applications.
We also know waste in these programs is not simply a question of streamlining paperwork and reducing red tape – unfortunately, we know food is being wasted as well. That’s why we have incorporated a proposal from Rep. Petri to allow schools to donate surplus foods to local food banks.
These are the types of commonsense reforms we can immediately adopt to improve child nutrition assistance with no added cost to taxpayers. During a time of record deficits and debt, these are the kinds of smart and responsible reforms the American people expect from Washington.
Mr. Chairman, Congress could easily renew and improve our child nutrition programs without adding to the deficit. Such a bill would undoubtedly garner bipartisan support. And as we all know, this is an effort that must succeed this year.
Unfortunately, the legislation we are considering today fails that basic goal, which is why Republicans have crafted a sensible, fiscally responsible alternative and I urge all of my colleagues to support it.
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