US & Canada

Barack Obama signs child nutrition and anti-hunger law

A school cafeteria worker in Los Angeles
Image caption Many poor US children eat most of their meals at school

US President Barack Obama has signed into law an effort to improve child nutrition and combat rising obesity.

The new law promotes healthier school lunches and funds meal programmes for poor children.

It is also aimed at curbing childhood obesity, seen as one of the top public health issues facing the US.

In a ceremony at a Washington school, Mr Obama called it "vitally important to the health and welfare of our kids and of our country".

'National security' issue

He noted the bill passed with bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and unanimous support in the Senate, rare occurrences in today's fractured political atmosphere.

"It says something about our politics," he said. "It reminds us that no matter what people may hear about how divided things are in Washington we can still come together and agree on issues that matter for our children's future and the future or our nation."

The new law is aimed at improving the nutritional quality of meals served to US school children and reducing hunger among poor children through breakfast and summer meal programmes.

Congressmen have also described it as a national security effort, with as many as nine million young adults too overweight to serve in the US military, according to House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a quarter of the US population is obese, and Mr Obama noted doctors have seen an increase in diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure in children.

The bill was also championed by First Lady Michelle Obama. Mr Obama quipped that had he failed to get it passed, "I would have been sleeping on the couch".