CHN: Advocates Rally Against Provisions in House Child Nutrition Bill

Advocates led by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) rallied on Capitol Hill on Thursday, June 9 against provisions in the House Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill (H.R. 5003) they say are dangerous and misguided. Advocates were opposed to the bill that was introduced on April 20 because it would weaken the Community Eligibility Provision that allows high-poverty schools to provide free meals to all students, affecting thousands of schools and millions of students. They also opposed the bill because it would increase school meal verification requirements in ways that would cause eligible student to lose access to free or reduced-price school meals, fail to address shortfalls in the summer food program, create barriers to the efficient operation of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and weaken school nutrition standards.
Changes were made to the bill before it was taken up and approved (on a near party-line vote) by the House Education and the Workforce Committee on May 18 that advocates feel made the bill even more harmful. According to FRAC, the bill now contains a three-state block grant proposal for school meal programs which would immediately cut the funding to operate school nutrition programs in those states. This would block a state’s ability to respond to increased need or rising program costs. In addition, school meals would no longer have to meet consistent research-based nutrition standards. States could set their own rules for determining which children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, and there would be no requirement that children have access to both school breakfast and lunch. Advocates are urging members of Congress to reject any proposals to block grant the child nutrition programs and reject the other harmful provisions in the bill that would diminish the ability of child nutrition programs to reduce hunger, improve health and support learning. The poverty plan released by House Speaker Paul Ryan on June 7, covered in another section of this Human Needs Report, also supports providing funding to states in exchange for more state flexibility in setting rules for school meals.

It is not clear when the House bill might be taken up on the floor, if it will be at all this year. The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee approved its version of the bill in January, but there has been no movement on it since then. For more information, see the April 25 Human Needs Report, FRAC’s analysis of the bill, and FRAC’s statement opposing the House bill.

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