CHN: Child Nutrition Reauthorization on the Table this Fall

This fall, Congress is set to reauthorize – with bipartisan support – the law governing child nutrition programs. 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.
According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), many of these programs are permanently authorized (subject to Congress funding their operations), but Congress reviews the laws governing them every five years. The current law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, is set to expire on September 30 of this year. Other programs included in the law that aren’t permanently authorized, like WIC, could expire at the end of September, though that is unlikely. There is a chance that, if the reauthorization isn’t done before the end of September, a short term Continuing Resolution could be passed to keep the programs funded for a few months, and funding negotiations could get wrapped up in the larger appropriations process this fall.

A top priority of the reauthorization for child nutrition advocates is increasing access to meals for low-income children outside of school. With about half of the nation’s schoolchildren eligible for free or reduced price school meals, far less access to food assistance during the summer months poses a real hardship for many families.  Provisions like those included in the Summer Meals Act would increase access to summer and afterschool meals at feeding sites, and the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act would help families who aren’t near a feeding site. On the WIC front, advocates hope to see, among other things, a state option to extend eligibility for children to age six. For more information on what to look for in the pending reauthorization legislation, see this piece from FRAC and Feeding America, as well as the National WIC Association’s reauthorization letter to members of Congress and their reauthorization agenda.

The House Education and Workforce Committee and the Senate Agriculture Committee have already had hearings related to the reauthorization. For witness testimony, statements, and archived webcasts, 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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