By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

Close-up of meal during 'Eat Like a Kid'

Lawmakers tasted real school lunches that meet national nutritional standards on Tuesday during an event on Capitol Hill called “Eat Like a Kid.”

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and several other congressional leaders joined Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi and celebrity chef Tom Colicchio to discuss the importance of nutritious school meals.

The food served at the event sponsored by American Heart Association and several other organizations was developed by Revolution Foods. The entrees included whole wheat pizza, sesame chicken salad and spaghetti with turkey meatballs.

Just 1 percent of children are in ideal heart health and 90 percent are eating too much salt, according to AHA Government Relations Manager Kristy Anderson, who spoke at the event.

AHA Representative Kristy Anderson stands with Top Chef Host Padma Lakshmi

AHA Representative Kristy Anderson stands with Top Chef Host Padma Lakshmi

“Kids are now showing signs of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and fatty liver disease. Their arteries look like ours,” she said, adding, “Does that freak anyone else out?”

Anderson said that underscores the importance of healthy eating, which starts with school meals.

“Every school should have a garden … and every school should have a kitchen,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio). He said that children should have the opportunity to not only eat nutritiously at school, but also learn how to cook healthy meals themselves.

Sen. Stabenow echoed Ryan’s sentiments while discussing a visit she recently made to a Michigan high school with a garden.

“One of the student-athletes said to me, ‘Sometimes in the middle of practice, I go over and eat a strawberry and get back on the field.’ How cool is that?” she said.

In the event’s closing remarks, Colicchio pleaded for Congress and schools to support healthy school meals.

“We cannot use our children’s health as political football,” he said.