CHN: Child Nutrition Reauthorization Moves through House Committee

On March 10 the House Education and Workforce Committee uanimously approved H.R. 3873, the “Child Nutrition Improvement and Integrity Act.” The bill, sponsored by the Subcommittee on Education Reform Chairman Michael N. Castle (R-DE), reauthorizes and improves provisions of School Lunch, School Breakfast and Summer Food child nutrition programs through 2008.
The bill improves access to nutritional meals for millions of children and makes the application process easier for families. Technological improvements in the application process will protect the confidentiality of a student’s financial status and reduce the stigma among children receiving free and reduced-price meals. Migrant children are made automatically eligible for free school meals. The bill enacts USDA’s seamless summer food waiver, which allows schools to feed children during the summer through the School Breakfast and School Lunch programs.

The bill also reauthorizes the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), improving the certification process and strengthening infant formula benefits. Summer food program (Lugar) pilot projects are expanded to three additional states, bringing the total number of pilots to 17. Private non-profit sponsors of the summer food programs are now eligible to participate.

Though the bill generated bipartisan support, Democrats on the committee criticized the bill for not adequately addressing the problem of obesity and the need for greater nutritional standards in school meals. An amendment to the bill that would have given the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to regulate nutrition standards for all food sold on school campuses was defeated 18 to 25. Currently, the Secretary only has regulatory authority over food sold in school cafeterias.

H.R. 3873 will now move to the House floor. The Senate Agriculture Committee began working on child nutrition reauthorization last fall but has not yet marked up a bill. The child nutrition programs are set to expire at the end of March, but because a full reauthorization is not expected to be complete by then, the House and Senate will likely pass a clean extension.

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