Statement from Agriculture Secretary Vilsack on Child Nutrition

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released the following statement in response to a new report done jointly by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) regarding positive outcomes of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), part of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which allows eligible high-poverty schools to offer school meals to all students at no charge, so they can focus on serving children the nutritious meals they need to learn, instead of doing paperwork.

“This report is further evidence that schools participating in CEP are making great strides ensuring that all children are well nourished and prepared to learn, especially since many of these students rely on school meals as their best source of nutritious food. CEP is a win for schools, parents and students, and the results we’ve seen in the first 2 years of nationwide implementation are inspiring. The report also underscores how the 2010 bipartisan child nutrition law has achieved significant positive results for child nutrition and health. It is because of these undeniable results that I urge Congress to stay the course in child nutrition. It would be unwise to roll back standards, saddle parents and school administrators with more paperwork or weaken assistance for our most vulnerable children. USDA stands ready to work with Congress to support the reauthorization of child nutrition programs that continue to improve the health and wellbeing of the next generation.”

The CEP report shows:

  • In the 2014-2015 school year, 4,000 new schools took advantage of the ability to streamline school meal administration through CEP;
  • In total, 3,000 school districts and 18,000 schools-more than half of all eligible schools-are participating, benefitting more than 8.5 million students without stigma;
  • Due in part to CEP, more than 90,000 schools now participate in the School Breakfast Program, a 27 percent jump since 2009; and
  • Schools participating in CEP are benefiting from improved program integrity, fewer hours spent on administrative work, and increased student participation in meal programs;

Since passage of the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010, America’s children have benefitted in the following ways:

  • Data show that obesity rates are falling among young kids;
  • 97 percent of schools have embraced updated, healthier meal standards;
  • Kids are now eating at least 13 percent more of their entrees, at least 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit at lunch;
  • More low-income children are benefiting from breakfast and lunch programs;
  • Nearly 4 million children have access to healthy food in the summer when school is out and meals are scarce; and
  • 8 million low-income women, infants and young children now receive an improved variety of healthy food through WIC.