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Letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Child Nutrition Standards

May 21, 2014

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the 3 million members of the National Education Association (NEA), and the students they serve, we urge you to VOTE NO on any amendments that would undermine or delay new nutrition standards for school meals adopted under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

NEA believes that proper nutrition is essential to child development and student success.  The clear link between good nutrition and learning is evident in schools across the nation every day. According to the Nutrition Cognition Initiative at Tufts University, continuous low nutritional intake affects factors such as motivation and attentiveness, which can have a negative impact on learning. In addition, undernourished children are typically fatigued and uninterested in their social environments. Undernourished children are also more susceptible to illness and, thus, more likely to be absent from school. (Center on Hunger, Poverty and Nutrition Policy). In these difficult economic times, food assistance programs are even more critical for children and families.

Childhood obesity has been a growing problem for decades.  We now face a national childhood obesity crisis, with nearly one in every three of America's children being overweight or obese.  Obesity can lead to severe and chronic health problems during childhood, adolescence and adulthood, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and asthma.  And, the associated health risks impose great costs on families, our health care system, and our economy.  Each year, nearly $150 billion is spent to treat obesity-related medical conditions. 

NEA strongly supported provisions in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.  These common-sense requirements are essential to ensuring all children a healthy and successful start in life, particularly those whose families cannot afford to provide fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods at home on a regular basis.  The benefits and cost-savings to our children and our nation in the long-run will be significant. 

We urge the Committee to reject amendments that would undermine these important nutrition standards.

Sincerely,

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations