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Emily Pickren

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2016 — The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) urged Congress today to join anti-hunger advocates across the country in opposing an ill-advised block grant provision in “The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 (H.R. 5003).”

“Block grants are bad policy,” said Jim Weill, president of FRAC. “They would undermine the years of progress made against child hunger, and would deny millions of children the nutrition they need for their healthy growth and learning. It is imperative we don’t go down this dangerous path.”

The proposed three–state block grant contained in the bill would severely weaken the highly effective school nutrition programs by:

  • Limiting the number of low-income children who can access the programs. Currently, every low-income child is eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. Block granting would allow states to set their own eligibility rules, which would leave many vulnerable children falling through the cracks. In addition, states would no longer have to adhere to the federal rules for developing and collecting school meals applications. These rules ensure that the process supports access to school meals and also ensures the children’s civil rights are being met.
  • Limiting the number of meals provided. It is critical for low-income children to have access to nutritious meals all day, every day. There is no requirement that block granted programs operate year-round, even though the block grant includes programs that provide meals during both the school year and summer vacation.
  • Reducing the quality of meals served. Research shows that the current school nutrition standards improve the school nutrition environment and student outcomes. Block granting would only reverse this progress because meals would no longer have to meet consistent standards, and there would be no federal oversight.
  • Eliminating the programs’ ability to respond to increased need. Under block grants, funding would not increase if there is an economic crisis resulting in more children living in households that are struggling to put food on the table or if there is an increase in the state’s population. Additionally, states would not receive the annual reimbursement rate adjustments that are based upon inflation in food prices, further eroding the state’s resources each year to provide low-income children a nutritious school breakfast and lunch.
  • Cutting funding. The history of federal block grants is one of continued cuts in funding, which, in this case, would only undermine the financial viability of the school nutrition programs. In addition to cutting funding for school nutrition programs, there is no oversight as to if/how the money is being spent on these nutrition programs.

The current structure of the child nutrition programs is based upon a shared, bipartisan commitment to ensure the health and well-being of all children.

“Sadly, the block grant proposal contained in the House bill would eliminate the nation’s bipartisan commitment to ensure our nation’s children do not go hungry,” concluded Weill.

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