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Kirsten Gillibrand's picture

Too often lost in the debate over health care reform is the importance of preventive measures such as exercise and healthy eating to ensure that a doctor's visit is less likely to be needed in the first place. This is especially true for children whose early brain development and future health depend on good nutrition in the first years of life, which is why I introduced The Access To Nutritious Meals For Young Children Act. This bill will strengthen the Child And Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), a program funded by the Child Nutrition Act, which provides meals to children enrolled in Head Start, Early Head Start and child care programs in both day care centers and family child care homes.

Currently, CACFP reimburses providers for up to two meals and one snack per day. As parents work longer and longer hours to make ends meet, for millions of children in this country the child care program or elementary school they attend is their primary source of food. That's why my legislation would expand the program to allow three meals and one snack each day.

It would also increase the reimbursement rates by 20 cents per meal and 10 cents per snack. As we all know, fuel and food costs have risen in recent years making nutritious food more and more out of reach to low income Americans. Our reimbursement rates to child care providers must rise accordingly.

In addition, while currently, the program is only available in areas where 50 percent of the population is low-income, I've expanded the program to areas where 40 percent of the population is low-income. Expanding eligibility would enable many more homes to participate in CACFP and many more children who desperately need nutritional meals and snacks to be served by this important program.

Finally, this bill will make participation in CACFP less of a burden by streamlining the program and paperwork requirements as well as increasing the Administrative Reimbursement Rate for CACFP sponsoring organizations by $5 per family child care home per month. These reforms will make the program more affordable and more likely to reach more children.

It is my hope that through my comprehensive child nutrition agenda, we can begin to give children a healthy start in life so that they can achieve their full potential. It's been found that as the nutrition of meals at school improves, manic behavior decreases and concentration increases. That's why it's imperative that we institute a wide array of reforms including banning trans fats in cafeteria kitchens across the country, raising the federal reimbursement rate of food by 70 cents per meal, and giving the Department of Agriculture more regulatory power over all food in schools, including snack machines.

Through the passage of The Access To Nutritious Meals For Young Children Act, we will take one very important step toward increasing the nutrition of millions of children around the country, which in turn will lead them on a road to success as well as reduce their lifetime health care costs in the long run.

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