Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack addressed the media Friday morning about the Administration's priorities in reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act, which is updated every five years. He told the members that it is a priority of USDA to provide children with healthier meals.
"Our children are clearly struggling, for we have fallen behind the curve as a society on this very important issue," Vilsack said. "The statistics are cause for serious concern and concerted action and attention. Nearly one-third of our young people are overweight or obese, or at risk of being overweight or obese."
Vilsack cited a report from the Institute of Medicine that showed young people are eating too few dark green and orange vegetables, too few low-fat dairy products and too many discretionary calories. This trend puts children at increased risk of several obesity related conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure.
"It's important for us to focus on the upcoming Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act," Vilsack said. "It is this opportunity where we have the chance to substantially improve the quality of meals we are serving to 31 million school children across the United States."
The Obama Administration has proposed an investment of an additional $1 billion annually over the next 10 years to improve child nutrition programs. In the recent Agriculture Appropriations bill, Congress began to make a down payment on this new approach with a commitment of $150 million toward improving programs.
"We've made a first positive step," Vilsack said. "This next year will an important year for us to continue to educate Americans about the importance of this, in terms of the future health needs of their children, the future capacities of these youngsters for them to be the very best students they possibly can be. So the focus will be on improved access, improved quality and improved performance."
To listen to Secretary Vilsack's opening statement from Friday's press conference use the audio player above.