CHN: Child Nutrition Programs Continue Despite Lack of Reauthorization Bill

While the law governing child nutrition programs expired on September 30, language in the Continuing Resolution passed to avert a government shutdown means the programs will continue to be funded and will continue to operate. The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act sets the policy and funding structure for all of the federal school meal and child nutrition programs, including School Breakfast, National School Lunch, Child and Adult Care Food, Summer Food Service Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and others. Many of these programs are permanently authorized (subject to Congress funding their operations), but Congress reviews the laws governing them every five years. Other programs included in the law that are not permanently authorized, like WIC, will also continue to be funded as a part of the Continuing Resolution, and the assistance from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) will continue to be issued. Funding for some of these programs could get wrapped up in the larger appropriations process this fall.
Child nutrition advocates have several priorities for the reauthorization. First, they maintain that funding for nutrition programs should not be cut to pay for other programs. According to CQ, under budget rules, any spending increase would have to be matched by corresponding cuts in related programs. Advocates will also push to see school nutrition standards fully implemented. Some requirements, like requiring whole grain products, were eased in the FY2015 omnibus spending bill, but those provisions expired Oct. 1. Other provisions, like a further reduction in sodium levels, are scheduled to go into effect in 2017. In addition, advocates hope to increase access to meals for low-income children outside of school and for children in child care and afterschool programs. Legislation like the Summer Meals Act, the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act, and the Healthy Food for Young Children Act would do just that. On the WIC front, advocates hope to see a state option to extend eligibility for children beyond age five to age six, similar to the Wise Investment in our Children (WIC) Act. For more information on what to look for in the pending reauthorization legislation, see this piece from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and Feeding America, as well as the National WIC Association’s reauthorization letter to members of Congress and their reauthorization agenda.

The Senate Agriculture Committee postponed a markup of the bill that had been set for September 17. Advocates will be holding Congressional briefings on October 8 where people who contributed to the Community Voices: Why Nutrition Assistance Matters project will be sharing their personal stories with school meals, WIC, and SNAP with members of Congress and their staff. For witness testimony, statements, and archived webcasts from previous House and Senate committee hearings, see FRAC’s Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) page. For additional information and resources from FRAC, No Kid Hungry, Feeding America, NEA, the National WIC Association and more, visit the Child Nutrition Forum site.

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