Child nutrition advocates celebrated a key victory last week after the Senate and House each unanimously passed the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act (S 2507 and HR 3873). The Senate agreed to the bill on June 23, the House on June 24, and the President signed it June 30. The House and Senate have been negotiating final details of the bill for months and the bill is a rare example of strong bipartisanship.
The bill renews until fiscal year 2009 the national school lunch and breakfast programs, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Child and Adult Care Food, and the Summer Food Program. The bill ensures more children will have food and snacks available to them before, during, and after school and in child care programs.
Highlights of the bill include:
- Simplifying the application process for low-income families which will increase the number of eligible children who will receive free and reduced-price school meals;
- Expanding the summer food (Lugar pilot) programs to more states and allowing eligible non-profit organizations to provide summer food;
- Allowing for-profit child care centers to participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program;
- Making migrant children automatically eligible for free school meals;
- Expanding the number of low-income children from military families to receive free and reduced price meals;
- Authorizing as many as five states to offer free school meals to families with incomes up to 185 percent of the federal poverty line provided Congress funds this expansion in the future.
On passage of the bill, James D. Weill, President of the Food Research and Action Center, said “this legislation will provide greater access and improve the nutritional quality of meals served in schools and out of school programs for many low income children. Kids will be healthier, do better in schools and out of school programs, and be better cared for in after-school, summer, and child care programs.”