Child Nutrition Reauthorization: Eight Facts You Need to Know NOW

1.    Every state will be able to participate in the Afterschool Meal Program, allowing afterschool programs in low-income areas in all states to receive federal funding to serve a full meal, and retroactive funding may be available.

The new law makes the Afterschool Meal Program available nationwide. The program provides federal funding to schools, local government agencies, and private nonprofits to serve a full meal at afterschool programs that are located in low-income areas. Organizations also may be eligible to receive retroactive funding for meals served back to October 1, 2010. To receive retroactive reimbursement, there must be adequate documentation that the meals were served and met the federal nutrition guidelines, and the program must be eligible to participate. Download more information here.

2.    Federally-funded jobs in state child nutrition and WIC agencies must now be excluded from state lay-offs and furloughs.

State budget-driven hiring freezes, layoffs and work furloughs have left many child nutrition and WIC state agencies understaffed, even though these jobs are funded by the federal nutrition programs. To help remedy this crisis, the new law requires that such federally-funded jobs for child nutrition and WIC programs be excluded from hiring freezes, layoffs and work furloughs. Urge your Governor to lift any current restrictions on state child nutrition and WIC agencies. A fully staffed state agency can serve more children and families struggling in these difficult times.

3.    Nonprofits will be able to serve Summer Food at more sites and to more low-income children.

The new law allows nonprofit organizations to serve more than 25 sites (and with no cap on the number of children at each site), thus eliminating the special restrictive rules that had been in place for nonprofits that operate Summer Food. In addition, schools are now required to help with summer food outreach. Both provisions will be in effect for summer 2011 and will create important new opportunities to support Summer Food expansion and outreach efforts.

4.    New paperless options for universal meal service will mean that more schools with high percentages of low-income students will be able to feed all children at no charge.

Community Eligibility and Community Survey are two new options for eliminating paper applications. The Community Eligibility option will allow schools in which at least 40 percent of students are directly certified for free meals to offer meals at no charge to all students without collecting paper applications. The Community Survey option will allow schools to use community survey data instead of paper applications to establish eligibility rates in schools. To have the best chance of being included in the initial implementation of these options, school districts should contact their state child nutrition agency and USDA Regional Office now.

5.    Children may now be certified to receive WIC benefits for a full year at a time, rather than six months.

The new law allows state WIC agencies to certify children for up to one year rather than the current six-month limit. This will increase WIC participation by reducing the burden on parents to bring children in every six months. Currently, WIC misses millions of eligible low-income, nutritionally at-risk children who could benefit from WIC services. Your state WIC agency can make a difference by adopting and vigorously promoting the new one year eligibility option for children.

6.    Less paperwork will make it easier for parents and family child care providers to enroll in the child care food programs, and so assure that more children have healthy food in child care.

The new law eliminates burdensome program and auditing requirements that intimidated parents and generated hours of meaningless paperwork for family child care providers. In addition, parents can now return all paperwork directly to their providers. Finally, community-based organizations supporting providers will have a simplified method of monthly reimbursements.

7.    Nutrition education resources may be made available at no cost for parents and child care providers participating in the child care food program.

WIC has excellent nutrition education materials. The new law allows local WIC agencies to share WIC nutrition education materials at no cost with child care institutions participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Now is a good time to approach state WIC agencies to recommend they allow sharing. In addition, CACFP-sponsoring organizations should contact their local WIC agency to request materials.

8.    USDA is required to make significant nutrition improvements in school meals and eliminate junk food from vending machines.

The new law requires USDA to make a number of improvements to the school nutrition environment, including making school meals healthier, eliminating junk food in the vending machines and strengthening wellness policies. The complex process for making these new rules takes time but it will allow you to express your views on the proposed rules. The first new rule, expected in the next few weeks, will propose a comprehensive set of new healthier school meal regulations for public comment.

Learn more about all the child nutrition programs by visiting the Federal Food/Nutrition Programs section of FRAC’s website.