WASHINGTON, January 18, 2016 – The Food Research & Action Center’s (FRAC) understanding of the likely provisions in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill headed for markup in the Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday is that it features some important improvements, but also some concerning provisions, as we and our allies continue to fight to ensure low-income children get the nutrition they need to thrive.
We are pleased to see that the bill takes a number of steps in the right direction to make good programs even better. Yet, the bill also reveals that our work is not finished. In particular, a new verification framework featured in the bill could threaten to increase the number of eligible low-income children who could lose access to healthy school meals.
Some of the important improvements in the bill include:
- streamlining summer and afterschool meal coordination, which will allow afterschool meal sites to choose to operate year-round through the Summer Food Program. This will allow sponsors to operate one program rather than two, and significantly reduce duplicative paperwork and confusing administrative rules protecting the new school meal nutrition standards that are improving our children’s health and the school nutrition environment;
- federal funding for an additional snack for children who are in child care for nine or more hours a day;
- increasing the age of eligibility for children to receive benefits from the Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program–eligibility will end at age six rather than at the fifth birthday;
- creating the opportunity for a six state pilot program that would allow summer food sponsors to provide a third meal.
Another potential step forward is the ability, in a limited number of states, for some families who qualify for free and reduced-price school meals, during the regular school year, to receive a summer EBT card with funds to purchase certain foods at retail stores, although advocates will work with Congress to make sure that households who have access to Summer EBT are able to utilize their benefits broadly at retail outlets in their community.
FRAC applauds the many Senators from both parties who helped produce the numerous positive provisions. We will continue to work to improve the verification process and other areas of concern so that every eligible child has access to the nutritious food they need for healthy growth and development.
We also give kudos to the unrelenting efforts of anti-hunger advocates across the country for leading the charge to make sure low-income children have access to nutritious food all day, and all year-round.
As the authorization bill proceeds through the Senate and the Congress, we call on leaders of both parties and the Obama Administration to seek every opportunity to provide critically-needed new resources to strengthen and improve these vital nutrition programs for our nation’s children.
Statement attributable to James D. Weill, president, Food Research & Action Center.