Washington (CNN) — President Barack Obama signed a sweeping overhaul of child nutrition standards Monday, enacting a law meant to encourage better eating habits in part by giving the federal government more authority to set standards for food sold in vending machines and elsewhere on school grounds.
Among other things, the $4.5 billion measure provides more money to poor areas to subsidize free meals and requires schools to abide by health guidelines drafted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To help offset the higher cost of including more fruits and vegetables, the bill increases the reimbursement rate for school lunches.
The bill is about “giving our kids the healthy futures they deserve,” the president said during a bill signing ceremony at a Washington elementary school. “Right now across the country too many kids don’t have access to school meals.”
Even when they do, he added, too often the meals aren’t sufficiently nutritious. As a result, he said, one out of every three children in America is overweight or obese.
Some Democrats had objected to the bill because it is funded in part by stripping $2.2 billion from the federal food stamp program. Congress also voted over the summer to take money from the program to fund legislation sending money to cash-strapped states to avoid teacher layoffs.
The cuts largely negate a spending increase provided to the food stamp program by the 2009 economic stimulus plan. Administration officials reportedly have promised anxious liberals that they will work to find ways to restore the higher funding levels.
The measure has been a top priority for first lady Michelle Obama, who has championed it as part of her “Let’s Move” initiative to combat child obesity in the United States.
“Had I not been able to get this bill passed, I would be sleeping on the couch,” the president joked shortly before signing the measure into law.
“We won’t go into that,” the first lady said. “Let’s just say it got done. Don’t have to go down that road.”