Democrats move bills to expand nutrition aid, protect workers from heat – Agri-Pulse

House Democrats advanced bills that would expand child nutrition assistance and require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue rules for protecting workers from excessive heat.

House Democrats advanced bills Wednesday that would expand child nutrition assistance and require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue rules for protecting workers from excessive heat.

The Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act approved by the House Education and Labor Committee on a party-line vote would expand an existing community eligibility provision to allow more schools in lower-income areas to provide free meals to all students without verifying their individual eligibility. The bill would also increase the lunch reimbursement rate by 10 cents and provide $10 million to help promote the use of plant-based foods in schools.

USDA also would be required under the bill to modify school nutrition standards every 10 years to keep them in line with federal dietary guidelines. An additional provision would ensure that schools could offer low-fat milk to students.

Congress hasn’t passed a child nutrition reauthorization bill since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was enacted in 2010 to require USDA to raise nutrition standards for school meals.

“We have to do better to expand access to free meals during the school year and summer months to ensure students who receive meals or have unpaid meal debt are not stigmatized or shamed, and to support schools in providing their students with nutritious, locally sourced and climate-friendly meals,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y.

The second bill, also approved on a party-line vote, would give OSHA two years to propose regulations for workplace heat exposure. The regulations would have to require employers to implement comprehensive plans for protecting workers. Employers, including farms, would be required to offer paid breaks in cool spaces and access to water.

Although OSHA is currently considering a heat standard, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., said the agency’s regulatory process takes far too long. She noted that a 38-year-old farmworker died in her state on the job last year from extreme heat.