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Child Nutrition Bill Clears Big Hurdle

July 20, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A U.S. House committee has taken the first step to reauthorize federal food programs, from school and summer lunches to nutrition help for low-income mothers and young children. For more than a year, the programs' fate has been up in the air, and their funding runs out at the end of September, so Friday's vote is a ray of hope for Ohio groups that provide food assistance.

The tally of committee votes was 32 to 13, and Evelyn Behm, senior vice president for food and strategic initiatives with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, says the fact that three Republicans were among the "Yes" votes says a lot about the importance of the legislation.

"I don't think there is anything partisan about child hunger at all. Just too many kids are going hungry in this country. Over 35 percent of the requests for food at our food pantry are for children. We certainly can do better than that."

Behm says the bill will help to improve nutrition and food safety as well as children's health. She adds that those who voted for the bill see it as an issue of "Pay now... or pay later."

"Hunger certainly has a terrible effect on children's health, and so you'll have children growing up unable to prepare for a job, you'll have children that have more health problems. This is truly an investment."

Behm says even those who voted "No" didn't dispute the need for the food programs, but they are concerned about the cost, an estimated $8 billion over the next ten years. The Senate version of the bill is $4.5 billion.

Schools and social service agencies are hoping for a compromise the President can sign by this fall.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH