Gillibrand in Ithaca on Monday. (Ryand Landvater/Ithaca Voice)

Ithaca, N.Y. — U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) pushed for “common sense nutrition standards” for schools at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School Monday a little after noon.

“Kids get it; they fully understand this issue,” Gillibrand said. “Unfortunately, Washington doesn’t — they don’t know as much as the 5th Graders in this class.”

Gillibrand in Ithaca on Monday. (Ryan Landvater/Ithaca Voice)

Before speaking in the school’s cafeteria, Gillibrand handed out oranges to a second-grade classroom at BJM. Gillibrand quizzed the kids on fruits and vegetables and highlighted the importance of healthy snacking.

See a video of Gillibrand in the classroom:

Gillibrand detailed a series of legislative efforts she said were crucial for improving child nutrition.

She said the Department of Defense had to turn away recruits because too many applicants were obese or otherwise unfit to serve, and that this showed the need for more and better child nutrition standards in schools.

“It’s a public health issue and a security issue,” she said.

The Child Nutrition Reauthorization act authorizes all federal school meal and child nutrition programs, a pamphlet from the Food Research and Auction Center says. But it’s set to expire on Sept. 30, 2015.

As a result, groups of activists and local officials are calling for the program’s renewal or expansion. Gillibrand and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.) have introduced a bill, the “Summer Meals Act,” to expand the Summer Food Program to low-income children.

After Gillibrand spoke, Natasha Thompson of the local food bank also spoke about the importance of child nutrition.

“We’re looking forward to doing whatever we can to make sure more of our kids get fed,” she said.

More photos from Ryan Landvater from the event:

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.