Advocates have been on pins and needles waiting for a key U.S. House committee to release its plan for reauthorizing the federal Child Nutrition Act. It finally surfaced yesterday, and though there’s no official word on a cost estimate, it’s expected to invest $8 billion over 10 years – almost twice as much as the $4.5 billion a Senate committee proposed in March.
The Senate bill, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, made great steps in the right direction, but President Obama, the Children’s Alliance, our allies on the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Coalition and other advocates argue that at least $10 billion over 10 years is needed to improve child nutrition programs that help kids thrive physically and academically.
The House’s Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act of 2010 goes further than the Senate bill on several fronts. Some of the things we’re jazzed about:
- More paperless ways to certify children for free or reduced-price school meals based on their enrollment in other programs, notably Medicaid.
- More ways to provide universal meals to children in high poverty areas using Census data and eliminating applications.
- $10 million in school breakfast grants to states (stay tuned for more about our School Breakfast Campaign).
- An added meal option for children in child care more than 8 hours.
- $50 million to expand farm-to school programs.
- $50 million for state efforts to end childhood hunger.
Some good things that both the House and Senate bills do:
- Restrict junk food in schools.
- Add an extra 6 cents for lunch reimbursements schools get if they implement new Institutes of Medicine nutrition guidelines.
- Require less paperwork for the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
- Streamline certifications for the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program, and promote breastfeeding.
- Lift restrictions on nonprofit organizations providing summer meals.
- Support additional research on childhood hunger.
Last December – at our urging – Rep. Rick Larsen introduced the Ensuring All Students Year-round (EASY) Access to Meals and Snacks Act, which creates a seamless program for nonprofits and public entities to offer meals and snacks year-round. In a California pilot program, the seamless approach helped feed lots more hungry kids. The House bill would expand seamless pilot programs to 10 states – states will compete for grants that would provide meals to an estimated 225,000 more children. That sets a great precedent for further streamlining programs that essentially serve the same children in different settings.
Want to know more? Read a summary of the house bill here – there’s also a link to the 248-page bill for you wonks out there!
Take Action: Call your members of Congress TODAY toll-free at 1-800-815-3740.
Our Message: Our children need a well-funded and comprehensive child nutrition reauthorization bill this year. We are pleased that the House bill supports increased funding for access and nutrition improvements. Please make it your priority that a final bill includes President Obama’s call of $10 billion over ten years.
– Linda Stone, Children’s Alliance senior food policy coordinator