American Heart Association You're the Cure advocates will travel to Washington DC in May to attend 2 days of advocacy training, legislative briefings and then a walk to Capitol Hill to talk to our lawmakers about issues important for heart and stroke health. As in the past, we have a strong delegation of advocates attending this biennial event.
The two issues advocates will talk to lawmakers about include increased funding for NIH research, and the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act. Both issues can have a tremendous effect on our mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Regarding the Child Nutrition Reauthorization, since 2010 when President Obama signed the Health and Hunger-Free Kids Act, the USDA has updated national nutrition standards for school meals and established nutrition standards for other foods sold in schools throughout the school day. As a result, in school year 2013-2014, nearly 90% of schools in the National School Lunch Program met nutritional standards, up from 14% in 2009-2010. That means an overwhelming majority of school-age children are receiving heart-healthy lunches while at school.
We know that a healthy school environment helps improve children's physical well-being, enhances learning, minimizes behavior problems and increases attendance. However, there have been challenges to implementation of the program and that's not unexpected. Kids are adjusting to the new meals and appropriate portion sizes, and parents are happier that their children are not receiving junk food for a meal. While there has been some criticism about participation declining, this downward trend started in 2007, well before the school meal standards went into effect in 2012. We anticipate that participation will likely improve over time as students and school food service fully adapt to healthier meals.
This is not the time to roll back the progress we've made toward healthier school lunches. We hope lawmakers will work to continue the progress we've made and take the next step toward reducing the incidence of childhood obesity.
Regarding NIH funding, the American Heart Association joins with the medical research community in working to protect, preserve and restore funding for the NIH. Moreover, we are working to support and promote funding for NIH heart and stroke research. This will capitalize on the investment in NIH to improve Americans' health, spur economic growth and innovation, and preserve U.S. leadership in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.
We are excited to join with other advocates from across the nation to share our concerns and ideas with our federal lawmakers and to encourage them to consider cardiovascular health when making important legislative decisions.