Issue: Child Nutrition Reauthorization
Congress must ensure that all children in the U.S. have access to year-round nutrition.
What is it?
Every five years, Congress must review all of the child nutrition programs that provide food to low-income children across the country and throughout the year. Programs reviewed under the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act (CNR) include the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), the Summer Food Service Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and others.
Who does it affect?
The child nutrition programs are designed to reach children at different stages of life and at different times throughout the year, forming a crucial safety net for low-income children and helping families stretch limited resources. For example, the WIC Program provides healthy food to women during pregnancy and breast-feeding, and to children from birth to age 5. CACFP provides nutritious food to children in childcare. When children begin full-day school, they can receive free or reduced-priced breakfast and lunch. Free after-school snacks, suppers and summer meals are also available in some communities.
Where does the legislation stand now?
On Dec. 13, 2010, President Obama signed the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010,” which takes important steps toward expanding program access and improving nutritional quality. However, it would fund these improvements by cutting $2.2 billion from future SNAP benefits. This means a family of four would see their benefits slashed by $59 per month. At a time when 1 in 4 children relies on SNAP to keep hunger at bay, this is simply unacceptable.
President Barack Obama and Congress have promised to work toward restoring those cuts to SNAP, which had already been slashed by more than $12 billion to fund a bill to aid states earlier in the session. It is imperative that Congress and President Obama keep to that promise to address the cuts to SNAP and to safeguard this vital nutrition program from further cuts.
How will the legislation change child nutrition programs?
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will do the following to improve kids' access to healthy meals, both in and out of school:
- Authorize a pilot program in which school districts may use a “socioeconomic survey” to count the number of school children entitled to free school meals, as Philadelphia has done for the past 20 years;
- Increase federal meal reimbursement rates for schools who serve better, healthier food at lunch (though only by 6 cents per meal);
- Improve direct certification methods to ensure that children in households receiving SNAP or TANF automatically receive free school meals;
- Introduce “community eligibility,” a program for universal meal service in schools that uses direct certification data instead of individual meal applications;
- Expand the At-Risk Afterschool Meal Program to all 50 states (previously only available in 13 states, including Pennsylvania);
- Allow states to extend WIC certification periods for children from 6 months to one year, streamlining administration and reducing unnecessary cut-offs; and
- Mandate WIC electronic benefits transfer (EBT) implementation nationwide.
- For more information, read the Food Research and Action Center's summary of the bill.