U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, today expressed his support for the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016, legislation to improve child nutrition programs, including school lunch. This legislation, which passed the committee by voice vote, would increase flexibility for South Dakota schools to continue to improve nutritional standards, while allowing them the time to make the adjustments needed to meet the standards that have been set for whole grains and sodium. It would also make changes to ensure that free and reduced meals make it into the hands of those who need them the most.
The legislation includes several Thune provisions that would better address the unique needs of Indian Country and its desire to include locally grown and traditionally prepared foods, which have a significant role to play in the education of Native American students. These provisions would bring needed flexibility and clarity for tribal schools.
Thune’s remarks are below:
“The statutes that we are addressing today are important.
“The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act in conjunction with the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 complement one another to ensure that students across the country have opportunities for wholesome nutrition.
“These statutes also provide a critical nutritional safety net for the most vulnerable among us, and as we take an important step to reauthorize this legislation today, this committee must ensure that common sense is applied regarding nutritional standards and that assistance is provided to those who truly need it.
“I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and the leadership of this committee as well as staff for working with us to include provisions to the bill that I requested during negotiations that will benefit Indian Country, especially expanding the use of traditional foods.
“Tribal leaders from across South Dakota have expressed their deep desire to make traditional foods integral parts of their nutrition programs.
“These provisions will make strides to increase flexibility for tribal entities to procure, prepare, and serve culturally significant foods to their students, while preserving and passing on their culinary cultures to the next generation.
“Also, farm-to-school programs have proven to be successful in providing greater access to locally grown and culturally significant foods to students in South Dakota.
“Not only will passage of this legislation by this committee today take an important step to improve nutrition for our students in South Dakota and across the United States, it also will increase accountability, and flexibility for local schools and stakeholders.
“I am greatly encouraged by the bipartisan negotiations that have taken place over the past year and by the attention paid to those of us who have requested more common sense and efficiency. And again, compliments to you, Mr. Chairman, to Senator Stabenow and your staffs for working to bring us to a point today where we can move this out of the committee and look forward to its passage and hopefully ultimate enactment.”