WASHINGTON, D.C. Giving strong support for current school lunch nutrition standards and for keeping the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program only for fresh produce, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., found a receptive audience at the United Fresh Washington Conference.
Speaking Sept. 30 at the breakfast session, Stabenow, ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said she won"t accept legislation that reauthorizes child nutrition programs if it reverses progress on child nutrition.
"The good news is that 95% of school districts meet the new meal standards, and they are doing it in creative way," she said.
She urged attendees to take the message to Congress with their lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.
"Go to the Hill and let them know we want to keep moving forward for the health of our children and the nation," she said. "We are really at a crossroads to decide whether we keep this going."
Displaying a stainless steel half-cup measure, she told the audience that a "half a cup is not too much" for fruit and vegetable servings at school meals.
One out of five health care dollars – about $190 billion - is spent treating obesity-related problems, she said, and the problem is getting worse.
Up to 70% of young people are ineligible to serve in the military and obesity is the No. 1 reason, she said.
"For a fraction of what we are spending on preventable health care disease, we can do the right thing in terms of the health of our children," she said.
Stabenow also said she won"t support adding processed fruits and vegetables to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, citing the success of the program and other programs that serve processed fruits and vegetables.
"It is important we get this reauthorization right. There won"t be one unless it is right," Stabenow said.