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Wednesday
Dec012010

Is Federal Government Meddling into Schools with Child Nutrition Bill?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House of Representatives Wednesday delayed a vote on the $4.5-billion child nutrition bill that would ban greasy food and sugary soft drinks from schools. The legislation has triggered criticism for its hefty price tag and new nutritional requirements that some say shouldn't come from the federal government.

The bill is expected to be brought up later this week.

The legislation has the support of the White House and first lady Michelle Obama, who has made childhood obesity a central focus.

The Senate bill, which passed with unanimous bipartisan consent in August, would expand eligibility for school lunch programs, establish nutrition standards for all school meals, and encourage schools to use locally produced food. It would also raise the reimbursement rate to six cents per meal, marking the first time in over 30 years that Congress has increased funding for school lunch programs.

But not everyone is warming up to the idea. House Republicans and three educational groups charge that the bill is too burdensome for schools and doesn't provide sufficient resources to cover costs that schools will have to incur.

Critics also question whether the federal government should be the one setting standards on what schools can or cannot serve.

Republicans have questioned the hefty price tag of the bill, which would be paid in part by cuts to the federal food stamp program. At a time when there are a myriad of other issues to be dealt with in the nation's education system, and the deficit is at record levels, some have questioned the timing of the bill's passage.

Those who are objecting to the bill also say it will add to school's costs.

But supporters say that getting rid of junk food in vending machines is actually good for schools. If they sell more lunch meals, they will get more federal dollars. And Democrats counter that the benefits outweigh the costs in the long term.

"Some folks will say, 'how can we afford this bill at the moment?'" Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. "How can we afford not to pass it? Leaving millions of children hungry and malnourished now in the name of budget cutting is penny wise and pound foolish."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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