Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said schools that serve more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to pupils should see higher federal support rates than those serving less-healthier meals loaded with high fats and sugar, reports the Associated Press. Child nutrition programs, which include school lunch and breakfast, are due for an overhaul, but Congress is not expected to act before 2010. The government has targeted improving the nutritional quality and access to school meals amid rising child obesity rates. "It is important for us to reward top performers," Vilsack told the Senate Agriculture Committee Nov. 17. "We would encourage this committee and the Congress to take a look at reimbursement rates that would be linked directly to increased nutritional values." School meal programs provide an estimated 40 million meals daily–and more than half a student’s food intake during the school day. Obesity rates among U.S. children have doubled in the last 20 years, and almost a third of American children are either overweight or obese. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln told Vilsack she was willing to pay more to serve healthier foods. "I’m certainly sympathetic to the concept of higher reimbursement rates. Common sense does tell us that as we improve that quality it also increases the cost," she said…

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