WASHINGTON, May 18, 2016 — The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) expressed strong opposition to the deeply flawed House child nutrition reauthorization bill, labelled as the “Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016” (H.R. 5003), that was marked up by the House Education and Workforce Committee today. Despite strong opposition to the bill from more than 750 national, state, and local organizations (pdf) representing a broad range of interests and advocacy areas, the measure was approved by the Committee on a near party line vote.
Multiple ill-conceived provisions included in this bill would result in countless low-income children no longer having access to the nutritious meals they need for their health and learning. These provisions vastly outweigh the modest improvements, such as increasing the school breakfast reimbursement.
The bill contains a number of damaging provisions, including: shrinking coverage of the very successful community eligibility provision; inappropriately increasing verification paperwork; diluting nutrition standards for school meals; and inadequately investing in the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. These requirements would reduce access to the programs, water down nutrition quality, and increase administrative burdens on both schools and families.
This legislation includes as well a three state school meal block grant demonstration pilot to replace the School Breakfast, National School Lunch, Special Milk, and Team Nutrition programs. The funding would be capped and cannot exceed the amount a state received for the programs and administrative funding in fiscal year 2016. The funding for school breakfast and lunch is limited to the free and reduced-price reimbursements (eliminating about 29 cents per meal provided for other children) and takes away the additional six cents per lunch provided to schools in the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 for meeting the new federal nutrition standards. The states would have broad discretion to:
- determine which children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals and how they are determined eligible;
- decide the length or time of year that meals are provided; and
- abandon the current nutrition standards (meals are only required to be “healthy”).
There would be no requirement to provide breakfast and lunch, but states would have to ensure that one meal is accessible for children. States would apply to be included in the demonstration pilot which would run for three years, with the option of renewing for an additional three years.
The national child nutrition programs have a long history of bipartisan support. This bill not only moves away from that tradition, but threatens to leave millions of children hungry. Instead of taking this opportunity to strengthen programs that have worked exceedingly well, this legislation hurts children by reducing their access to nutritious meals. FRAC will continue to urge Members of the full House to put our nation’s children first and oppose this measure.
Statement attributed to James Weill, president of Food Research & Action Center.