Kids’ Advocates to Congress: Hold the Fries

Washington — The First Focus Campaign for Children, a national bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, released a letter today urging leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee to reject politically-motivated efforts to undermine science-based nutrition policies for federally-funded nutrition initiatives. The letter specifically cites proposals to override a Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) policy excluding white potatoes – the main ingredient in French fries – from WIC’s food “package.”

“We’ve got a simple message for Congress: hold the fries,” said First Focus Campaign for Children president Bruce Lesley.

For decades, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has based WIC nutrition standards on the best available science. The current USDA policy prohibiting WIC subsidies for white potatoes responds to a recommendation by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, based on the Institute’s conclusion that the diets of WIC-eligible children, mothers, and pregnant women are already high enough in white potatoes. Proposals in Congress, including the Appropriations Committee’s draft federal fiscal year 2015 funding bill, responds to industry pressure with language to override that science-based policy.

“When Congress listens to lobbyists, they respond to a childhood obesity crisis with a French fry mandate,” said Lesley. “The House should reject that misguided plan and put science and children ahead of lobbyists.”

The letter also cautions against other efforts to weaken nutritional standards in the National School Lunch Program and related food aid initiatives. Despite the fact that 90 percent of schools have already met standards established under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the draft USDA appropriations bill reportedly includes language offering waivers of the compliance deadline.

“Congress should ensure schools have the resources necessary to meet nutrition standards, not lower the standards that protect children,” said Lesley.

The Campaign for Children letter also urges appropriators to fully fund initiatives that reduce both childhood hunger and childhood obesity:

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food for 22 million children each month;
  • The Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Grant Program (“SNAP-Ed”), which provides nutrition education to help families find, buy, and prepare healthy foods on limited budgets;
  • WIC, which helps women to deliver healthy babies and supports their early care by providing food and breastfeeding counseling, nutrition education, healthcare and social service referrals;
  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which provides food and financial support to help food banks deliver nutritious food through pantries, shelters, and kitchens; and
  • School nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program

“One-fifth of kids in America today lives in a home that struggles with hunger, and whether that number goes up or down next year depends on the choices Congress makes this year,” said Lesley.

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Nutrition Press Release

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