WASHINGTON — A bill that would pave the way for the Women, Infants, and Children nutritional assistance program to move to an electronic benefits transfer technology passed the House Thursday by a 264-157 vote.
"We applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for approving The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, as it contains important policy changes that lay the groundwork for the modernization of the [WIC program]," said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and chief executive officer, Food Marketing Institute.
A Senate version of the bill has already passed, and President Obama is expected to sign the legislation, which dovetails with the "Let's Move" campaign against childhood obesity being promoted by First Lady Michelle Obama.
FMI has has long supported the transition of the WIC program away from paper checks and vouchers to EBT technology. The bill establishes some protocols for the transition and sets a mandate for Oct. 1, 2020, for WIC to go paperless.
Other industry food groups also supported the bill, which would increase access to school meals, set science-based standards for school meal programs and provide more healthy foods in school cafeterias.
"This crucial legislation will help feed many more children through school lunch and breakfast programs and increase the number of healthy choices in the cafeteria," said Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO, Grocery Manufacturers Association.
Other groups that voiced support included the Produce Marketing Association, the United Fresh Produce Association and the Organic Trade Association.