CHN: Child Nutrition Bill Awaits Senate Action
Advocates remain hopeful that the full Senate will take up bipartisan legislation to reauthorize child nutrition programs soon, potentially even this week. The Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016, which passed the Senate Agriculture Committee on January 20, sets the policy and funding structure for all of the federal school meal and child nutrition programs, including National School Lunch, Summer Food Service Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and others.
According to the Food Research and Action Center, the new legislation contains many positive changes, including allowing for an additional snack for children in care for nine or more hours a day; allowing for after-school and summer meal providers to streamline their operations through one program; and increasing the age of eligibility for children to receive benefits through WIC to their sixth birthday rather than their fifth birthday, except for children in full-day kindergarten. It also allows some families who qualify for free and reduced-price school meals in select states to receive a debit card, or Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, that they can use to buy certain foods at select stores during the summer.
Advocates are concerned, however, that stricter verification requirements for families’ school meal applications in the Senate bill will cause some eligible students to lose access to free or reduced-price school meals, particularly students whose families are homeless, migrant, immigrant and/or have limited English proficiency. Advocates are also concerned that a House version of this bill would hurt low-income families more than the Senate bill, possibly by rejecting the increase in the WIC age of eligibility, rolling back some of the school meal nutrition standards, and/or other measures. No timeline has been set for when the House Education and Workforce Committee may take up this legislation.