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Rachael Ray Lends Star Power to School Food Bill

First it was Richard Simmons, getting Congress to exercise.

Now Rachael Ray is lending her star power to the House Education and Labor Committee's effort to revamp school nutrition programs. Apparently, she thinks a bill introduced today by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the committee, is yummo and delish.

Ray, who participated up in a press conference on Capitol Hill today to roll out the legislation, asked the audience to imagine what it is like for a child to go hungry.

"The difference an apple or a good school lunch makes to these kids ... it's more than just keeping them focused in class, it literally is everything," she said.

The bill is also being championed by Reps. Todd Platts, R-Pa., and Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y. The Senate Agriculture Committee passed its own version of the measure earlier in this Congress. It's awaiting floor action.

The measure seeks to better coordinate child nutrition programs with data produced by other federal agencies so that more kids can participate. For instance, the bill would make it easier for kids to enroll in the school lunch program by using Medicaid/SCHIP data to show that their families meet the necessary income requirements. And it would use U.S. Census data to help steer meals to high-poverty schools. The measure also would aim to make meals more available at school and community-based summer and afterschool programs.

And it would aim to make meals healthier by offering schools competitive grants to improve their healthy breakfast programs, and by hiking the reimbursement rate for school lunch by 6 cents per meal.

The bill also would help schools establish partnerships with local providers, such as nearby farms, to create school gardens And it would seek to improve food safety.

No mention of EVOO in there, though.

You can watch Ray's full speech here, and Miller's here. And check out this fact sheet on the legislation.

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