Washington DC – Rep. Jim McDermott (WA-7), Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, released the following statement in advance of the floor vote on amendments to H.R. 4800 – Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act:

“As a physician, I have seen firsthand the positive effects that fresh, nutritious food can have on brain development and academic achievement in children.  That’s why I voted for the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.  Today, child nutrition experts agree that the nutrition standards established by this legislation are playing a significant role in reversing an obesity epidemic that affects 1 in 3 American children.  Obesity has even become a national security issue as 450 retired generals and admirals have informed Congress that ‘Obesity poses a major threat to our future military readiness, with excess body fat now being the leading medical disqualifier for military service.’

It’s mind-boggling that House Republicans, through provisions in the FY 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill, have undermined healthy nutrition standards for school meals.   Under these provisions, schools will be granted a 1 year waiver from nutrition standards.  It is ironic that schools will continue to get federal funding but will not be required to meet nutrition standards for 1 year.  Our children need fresh, nutritious food to succeed in school academics and athletics.

Another crucial program is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).  The WIC program is one of our most successful maternal and child health programs.  It is a combination of supplemental foods, nutrition education and referrals for health care.  It is a proven effective program at preventing and improving nutrition health problems.   Republican provisions in the Agriculture Appropriations bill would require the inclusion of white potatoes in the WIC food package, while taking the unprecedented step of overriding the science-based review process used to determine which foods should be included in the WIC food package.  I cannot support such an action.

Overall, I strongly oppose House Republicans’ provisions in the FY 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill.”