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Letter to the House Appropriations Committee on the FY15 Agriculture Appropriations Bill

May 28, 2014

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the 3 million members of the National Education Association (NEA), and the students they serve, we urge you to OPPOSE provisions in the FY 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill that would undermine or delay new nutrition standards for school meals adopted under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and SUPPORT any amendments that would restore these vital standards. Nearly 500,000 of our members are Education Support Professionals (ESPs), who prepare school meals, maintain a safe and healthy learning environment, and help students learn about and practice healthy nutrition, eating habits, and lifestyles.  We offer these comments from the perspective of representing the entire range of education professionals who contribute to student wellness. 

The nutrition standards set out in the bipartisan Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act have had widespread, positive impacts on children’s access to healthy foods during the school day.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that over 90 percent of schools are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards. The result being a healthier school environment with more nutritious food options for students.

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.

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.  Among adolescents, the total excess cost related to the current prevalence of obesity is estimated to be $254 billion — $208 billion in lost productivity and $46 billion in direct medical costs (American Heart Association, 2013).

NEA strongly supports the school meal nutrition standards 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 OPPOSE provisions in the FY 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill that would undermine these important nutrition standards and SUPPORT any amendments that would restore them.

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations