Statement attributable to Luis Guardia, President, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)
WASHINGTON, July 20, 2022 – Today, House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) unveiled the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act, the Committee’s much-anticipated Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill. It is a comprehensive plan that will increase access to school meals, summer meals, and child care meals like never before. FRAC is delighted that the House heeded the calls of anti-hunger organizations from across the country to address the rising rates of child hunger, support access to and participation in the federal child nutrition programs, and continue improving the nutritional quality of the meals served. This game-changing legislation will significantly move the needle on ending child hunger and improving health.
The bill builds upon the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has continued to highlight the importance of the federal child nutrition programs as families recover from the ongoing health and economic fallout of the pandemic. During the pandemic, food insecurity increased for households with children, with a disproportionate impact on Black, Latinx, and Native American households.
FRAC commends Congress for including provisions that ensure children have access to the nutrition they need year-round. Among many provisions, the Act would
- dramatically increase children’s access to free school meals by expanding community eligibility which would allow more high-need schools to offer free meals to all students at no charge and expand direct (automatic) certification to include Medicaid;
- provide critical protections for children and families with unpaid school meal fees and require school districts to take steps to determine if families who are accruing school lunch debt are eligible for free or reduced-price meals;
- significantly expand access to summer meals and create a nationwide Summer EBT program, a complementary approach that would help close the summer hunger gap;
- give the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) waiver authority during federally declared emergencies;
- allow for an additional reimbursable meal for children in a full day of care, helping to provide the full complement of meals young children need to grow and thrive;
- modernize the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) by requiring WIC clinics to offer services over the phone and via video options and allow remote benefit issuance;
- extend WIC benefits to children up to 6 years old, and extend certification periods to two years for infants, children, and postpartum individuals; and
- create a pilot program to allow Tribal governments to express their inherent sovereignty in the space of food and agriculture by administering the child nutrition programs.
These critical investments will help end childhood hunger, improve health, and support academic achievement and child development. FRAC enthusiastically supports this plan and urges the House Education and Labor Committee to quickly pass the bill so it can move to the House floor.
Hungry children can’t wait.
The Food Research & Action Center improves the nutrition, health, and well-being of people struggling against poverty-related hunger in the United States through advocacy, partnerships, and by advancing bold and equitable policy solutions. To learn more, visit FRAC.org and follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.