The Senate Agriculture Committee has unveiled the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010,” a bipartisan bill making the largest investment in federal child nutrition programs to date.

The bill from Sen. Blanch Lincoln, D-Ark., chairman of the committee, would provide $4.5 billion in new child nutrition program funding over 10 years, a significant increase over previous efforts. The highest previous increase was $500 million over 10 years.

“We are poised for a truly historic moment in the Senate Agriculture Committee with the unveiling of a bill that makes the largest investment in our child nutrition programs to date,” said Lincoln. “This proposal is a monumental step forward as we work to end childhood hunger and address the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States. It invests roughly $4.5 billion in new funding in child nutrition programs over the next 10 years — more new money than we have provided for child nutrition programs since their inception.

“This legislation will also mark the first time since the inception of the National School Lunch Program that Congress has dedicated this level of resources to increasing the program’s reimbursement rate. It also invests heavily in new initiatives designed to automatically enroll more eligible low-income children with our National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs and includes a major expansion of after school feeding programs.”

The legislation aims to ensure that all children eligible for nutrition programs are actually participating, improve the quality of meal benefits, and modernize and improve the integrity of the programs. The legislation is fully paid for, Lincoln said.

“This bill complements the tremendous work that has been done in my home state of Arkansas. From stronger local wellness policies, to improved nutrition requirements for the Child and Adult Care Food Program, to funding to bring healthy, local foods into schools, this bill is an incredible step in the right direction toward teaching our children the healthy habits they need to live longer, more productive lives.”

The federal child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Special Supplemental Program for Women Infants, and Children (WIC), and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, play a critical role in preventing hunger and promoting healthy diets among children from birth until the end of secondary school.