Washington (UPI) Jul 20, 2010
Legislation making its way through the U.S. Congress could change the way U.S. children eat lunch in school and it could be more expensive than many people will expect.
A U.S. House of Representatives committee approved a bill last week aimed at improving the health for America's children through increased funding for school nutrition aid and school free lunch programs, among other means. In March, a U.S. Senate committee approved a similar bill. Both now await votes by the full House and Senate.
There's a significant difference between the two bills, though -- about $3.5 billion over 10 years.
House Education Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., said the money spent now would help the children and the country over the course of years.
"By setting these minimum standards and by making these important investments, we fulfill the promise to our children of a healthy future," Miller said.
The House bill was changed from the Senate version, which had a $4.5 billion increase in spending on the programs. The House version now includes a significant number of additional programs, raising its increased spending total to $8 billion over 10 years.
Supporters of the programs argue that they're valuable to ensuring healthy children down the road but detractors say there has to be a way to improve children's nutrition without running up the federal deficit.
"If Congress passes this legislation, as it stands today, we expect spending that will add roughly $7 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years," U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., said Thursday during final committee action on the bill.
The cost of the Senate bill, in contrast, is fully offset and paid for, said U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who said he is optimistic about the bill's success on the Senate floor.
"With the deficit situation we have around here, it's always easier to pass something if it's paid for," Harkin said. "Hopefully our bill has a good chance."
While pointing out that the House bill adds spending, Harkin said he liked a lot of the added programs.
"There are certain things we ought to be spending money on," Harkin said. "We've always been penny wise and pound foolish about these things. If we have unhealthy kids now, we're going to have unhealthy adults down the road."
Some additions to the original House bill:
-- an organic food pilot program
-- transportation to school lunch programs in the summer for children in rural areas
-- a pilot program that would introduce plant-based proteins for vegetarians
-- a "nutrition corps" of employees to help schools and communities become healthier
-- a pilot program to offer low-fat cheeses and milk to schools
-- Weekends Without Hunger, which would provide food to low-income children on weekends and school holidays
earlier related report
Almost 600 staff from global beverages giant Pernod Ricard were in South Australia's Barossa Valley for a crash course in wine appreciation, with "sensory lab" sessions and tasting classes to equip them as connoisseurs.
They are preparing for the launch of what is believed to be Australia's first-ever wine range specifically developed for sale and consumption in China, the Jacob's Creek "Winemaker's Selection".
Pernod Ricard China's managing director Con Constandis, in charge of the Jacob's Creek distribution, said wine was a booming industry, with the burgeoning middle class developing a taste for premium imported brands.
"Affluence, aspiration are some of the things that come to mind," Constandis said. "Twenty years ago 20 percent of the population was urban, 80 percent was rural, now it's a 50/50 split between the two."
"They're using it to make a statement about themselves," he added.
Horace Ngai, deputy managing director and a Chinese national with 20 years of industry experience, said consumers were growing more sophisticated and the art of wine appreciation itself was gaining popularity.
"They are going for quality and substance, moving away from just a brand name," Ngai explained.
"Part of our role now is to educate (consumers) how to appreciate wine. That takes some real time and effort."
He said as many as 200 million Chinese consumers now considered wine a part of their lifestyle.
The trainees, most of them sales representatives and customer service officials, will return to China to sell the wine with an insider's knowledge of what Asian drinkers want, he added.
"Fresh, vibrant, not too alcoholic with soft tannins. Not too aggressive and not too hard," explained Jacob's Creek's chief winemaker Bernard Hickin.
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