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USDA's Nutrition Tour Makes Pit Stop in South Carolina

This week I got a chance to travel to South Carolina and to talk to child nutrition staff from South Carolina as well as surrounding States like Tennessee, Mississippi and North Carolina about how we plan to improve school meals and the overall health of our nation's children. It was a great group and a productive discussion.

This Administration's goal is to improve child nutrition by ending child hunger and childhood obesity. As Administrator of USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, I can tell you that we're committed to meeting this goal. FNS has 15 nutrition assistance programs - many of which serve children directly. Our National School Lunch and National School Breakfast Programs serve 32 million and 11 million children respectively. For many of the children we serve, School Lunch and Breakfast are the only nutritious meals they eat in a day.

child nutrition reauthorization conference

Currently, our child nutrition programs are up for reauthorization. I see this as a crucial opportunity to make inroads toward ending child hunger and obesity. A strong reauthorization would help give parents, school districts, State Agencies, and all of our other partners the support and resources they need to make a difference. I was inspired by the level of commitment shown by those who attended the April 12 discussion in Charleston. I heard a lot of great suggestions on how to make our programs more effective. My hope is that through child nutrition reauthorization we can help creative ideas come to fruition.

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Todd Bedenbaugh with the South Carolina Department of Education said, "It's imperative that Secretary Vilsack is given the authority to regulate all foods sold during the school day to include vending machines and school stores. It will allow us to improve nutrition Integrity in the schools."

I agree. One thing that we are acutely aware of is the fact that we must address hunger and obesity from many angles. Nutrition assistance programs won't solve these problems alone. That's why I'm so excited about the First Lady's Let's Move! initiative. Let's Move! is the type of integrated approach that is absolutely necessary.

We have to combine our efforts to serve better meals through nutrition assistance programs with efforts to improve access to healthy and affordable food, increase children's physical activity, and help parents make healthy choices for their families.

Alice Lenihan with the NC Department of Health and Human Services applauds the First Lady for her efforts. She said, "It's the best thing that has come along in a long time. I urge the Administration and Congress to implement the CNR Bill. We need to shift our forces onto nutrition and physical activity. It's an exciting time to be involved in child nutrition." Alice Lenihan NC.

Child Nutrition reauthorization can ensure Let's Move! gets the support it deserves.

My colleagues and I have several stops planned across the country. Our goal is to escalate the national conversation on child nutrition. The feedback we get will help us take steps that build healthier families and communities across America.