CHN: Senate Passes Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill

On August 5 just hours before beginning its summer recess, the Senate passed by voice vote the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (S.3307).  Since the Agriculture Committee first reported the bill out of committee in May, the stumbling block to moving it forward has been paying for the $4.5 billion in improvements in the 10-year reauthorization bill.  The impasse was broken when Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) agreed to replace the $2.2 billion cut to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in the committee bill, opposed by environmental and conservation groups, with a cut to future benefits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps).  The bill that passed the Senate also eliminated a reduction in WIC funding present in earlier versions. The Senate bill also includes a $1.3 billion cut in the SNAP nutrition education program to offset the bill’s cost.
The $2.2 billion in SNAP money would reduce SNAP benefits in future years, taking away some of the increase enacted in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  Earlier on August 5, the Senate also took $11.9 billion from the ARRA increase in SNAP benefits to help pay for aid to states in a bill that passed the Senate and later the full Congress.  (See article in this Human Needs Report.)  The SNAP cut providing some of the funding for state aid will reduce benefits for a family of four by $59 in 2014; under the Senate child nutrition bill, the SNAP cut would take effect in 2013. The double hit to SNAP is deeply troubling to anti-hunger advocates.

S. 3307 takes a number of important steps forward to ensure that low-income children have access to child nutrition programs and receive the meals they need.  The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) at-risk afterschool program, currently available in 13 states, would be expanded to all 50 states.  The bill also simplifies the application process for free meals for students, and will allow 115,000 more children to qualify for free school meals by certifying them as eligible if they are enrolled in Medicaid.  The legislation increases reimbursement rates for the National School Lunch Program and gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to establish national nutrition standards for all food sold on the school campus through the school day, assuring greater food quality.  The bill also simplifies administration of the Summer Food Service Program.

On July 15, the House Education and Labor Committee passed its version of the child nutrition reauthorization, The Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act (H.R. 5504), which contains these same provisions and makes a number of other improvements not in the Senate bill.  (See article in the July 26 Human Needs Report.)  The House has not yet identified offsets to pay for the $8 billion in improvements in its bill.

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