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Clinton offering child poverty plan

Clinton 2008
Presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., wants to give children "greater access to healthy, fresh food."Carolyn Kaster / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton is offering a plan to improve childhood nutrition and setting a goal to reduce by half the 12 million youngsters living in poverty over the next dozen years.

A package of proposals, to be unveiled Thursday, includes a "comprehensive" early education initiative that starts with nurse's visits for pregnant women, lets children begin the Head Start program earlier and calls for universal pre-kindergarten programs.

The New York senator also says she would deal with childhood hunger by putting in place a food safety net, and give children "greater access to healthy, fresh food."

She was to spell out her proposals in a speech at the child care development center on Ohio University's southern campus.

Clinton aides said the new programs would carry and annual pricetag of $5 billion to $6 billion. A significant portion of her plan comes by expanding existing programs. She would cover the cost by toughening enforcement to collect taxes currently owed but not paid.

Clinton said she would direct her agriculture secretary to develop a plan to end childhood hunger. The nutrition effort would come largely through signing up more people for the food stamp program and expanding its benefits.

Focus on schools
School breakfast programs would be universal in low-income neighborhoods under her proposal. She also would double the size of a summer nutrition program aimed at feeding low-income children when they aren't in school.

Clinton also says she would launch an effort to get junk food out of schools. She would require schools that get federal funding through the school lunch or breakfast programs to offer only food that meets or surpasses USDA standards.

Background documents outlining her proposal were provided to The Associated Press and include some proposals that Clinton has offered in the past such as calling for an increase in the minimum wage to aid the working poor, as well as expanding the earned income tax credit, a move that helps the same group.

In addition, Clinton was calling for stronger programs aimed at cutting teen pregnancy as well as toughening child support enforcement programs to "support responsible fatherhood."

Clinton argues that roughly 12.9 million children live in poverty, with about 5 million living in extreme poverty. That means their families have incomes of less than half the federal poverty level.

The effort would bolster minority children, Clinton says, with roughly one-third of black children living in poverty and 28 percent of Hispanic youngsters living in poor households. That compares with the roughly 10 percent of white children in poverty, she says. Despite that, 35 percent of all children living in poverty are white, making them the largest group of youngsters in poverty.

"While we celebrate America as a place where an individual's circumstances at birth should not determine his or her life chances, the fact is that economic mobility is now in decline in America," Clinton's background documents say. "Children born in poverty are likely to live in poverty their whole lives."

The effort to provide nursing care for pregnant women builds on a program she shaped as first lady of Arkansas, a program she said has been a dramatic success.