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Pfizer says its vaccine is safe for children ages 5 to 11, travel restrictions soon will ease for vaccinated international visitors to the U.S., and a Texas doctor who performed an abortion under new restrictions is sued.

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Lawsuits stall debt relief for America's Black farmers; Idaho hospitals using "critical care" protocols; grant money boosts rural towns in Utah and more conservation acreage could protect the iconic sage grouse.

What's For Lunch? Bipartisan Support for School Lunch Improvements

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Friday, January 29, 2016   

RALEIGH, N.C. - Washington will have a busy week of catch-up next week after days of closures because of the record-setting snowfall. But before lawmakers got snowed in, members of the U.S. Senate released a bipartisan bill that would reauthorize child-nutrition programs, including the national school lunch and breakfast programs for the next five years.

Among the changes, the legislation includes funding for expanded kitchen equipment to enable staff to prepare fresh-cooked meals for students.

Claire DiMattina, executive director of the advocacy group Food Policy Action, said this comes after a trend of school districts centralizing food preparation and utilizing frozen meals and vegetables, "because we're talking about serving fresh fruits and vegetables and heart-healthy meals and meals with less sodium and some of those things you just can't serve if you don't have a place to prepare them."

The legislation also would require that 80 percent of grains served in schools are whole-grain rich and puts in place sodium-reduction requirements. Once lawmakers are back in session, the bill will have to be added to the calendar to be considered by the full Senate.

The bill also doubles funding for the Farm to School Grant Program, streamlines summer meal coordination and expands summer meal programs. If passed, DiMattina said, the legislation would have a direct impact on children in the state.

"For a lot of those kids, these are one or two of the only healthy, nutritious and hopefully delicious meals they're having every day," she said. "So it's important that we're providing meals that are healthy, that they want to eat, that are providing the necessary nutrients."

The former Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that went into effect in 2010 has been criticized for encouraging a menu with food many children won't eat. This bill is the reauthorization of that legislation and includes some changes.


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