Every five years, the U.S. Congress has the opportunity to set policies and funding for the national programs that allow all children to get the nutrition they need. Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR) renews the federal legislation that oversees the nutrition standards, scope, and funding for critical food assistance programs such as the nation’s school breakfast and lunch programs, summer meals, afterschool meal programs, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
Our legislators in Washington, DC last updated and approved CNR legislation as the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The deadline for finalizing the next CNR (and for the 2016 federal budget) is September 30, 2015. However, current discord between the Republican and Democratic parties in Congress makes it likely that they won’t meet that deadline.
In the meantime, we must make clear to our federal legislators that they should continue the progress that they made in 2010:
- Child nutrition standards that improve nutrition and help address obesity among the nearly 31 million children who eat school lunch and 14 million who eat school breakfast each day, many of whom come from low-income families and rely on these meals.
- Child nutrition programs that directly work to reduce child hunger and child obesity.
Our nation now has the opportunity to protect these standards and has the means to invest in and expand these programs. And we must – because no child deserves to go hungry.
So far various legislators have proposed six bills be added to the 2015 CNR to expand access to its vital programs and services. Congress should pass all these bills, but Just Harvest is prioritizing our advocacy efforts in support of four (below). We also include info about which U.S. Senators from PA and U.S. Representatives from Allegheny County are supporting these bills and who still needs to hear your voice.
The Summer Meals Act of 2015
S. 613 – Cosponsored by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA); no commitment of support from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)
H.R. 1728 – Rep. Mike Doyle (D-14th) is a cosponsor; no commitment of support from Tim Murphy (R-PA-18th) or Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12th)
What it does: This bill enhances efforts to expand the reach of the Summer Food Program to millions of low-income children, helping to reduce hunger and significantly simplify the administration of the program for sponsors.
Why we need it: Eligibility criteria for reimbursement for summer meal programs is now the most restrictive it’s ever been and particularly hurts children in suburban and rural areas. In July 2014, over three million children ate summer lunch on an average day, but that accounted for only one in six of the low-income children who rely on school lunch during the school year.
The Stop Child Summer Hunger Act of 2015
S. 1539 – Cosponsored by Sen. Robert Casey (D); no commitment of support from Sen. Pat Toomey (R)
H.R. 2715 – Rep. Mike Doyle (D-14th) told us he is considering cosponsorship; no commitment of support from Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA-18th) or Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12th)
What it does: Provides low-income families with children an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card with $150 for the summer to buy food along with information on making healthy food choices and maximizing family resources.
Why we need it: This bill would offer another needed food resource for low-income children who are going without the free/reduced-price school breakfasts, lunches, and afterschool meals and snacks that they receive during the school year.
The Wise Investment in our Children (WIC) Act
S. 1796 – Introduced by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA); no commitment of support yet from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)
H.R. 2660 – Rep. Mike Doyle (D-14th) is a cosponsor; no commitment of support from Tim Murphy (R-PA-18th) or Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12th)
What it does: Increases the age of eligibility for children to receive WIC benefits from age five to age six.
Why we need it: After they “graduate” from WIC, not all five-year-olds qualify for kindergarten. This leaves a large number of low-income five-year-olds without either preventive nutrition services or school meals for as long as a year during a critical period of growth and development.
The Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act of 2015
S. 1833 – Introduced by Sen. Robert Casey (D); no commitment of support from Sen. Pat Toomey (R)
HR tbd – Not yet introduced in the House: Rep. Mike Doyle (D-14th) told us he is considering cosponsorship; no commitment of support from Tim Murphy (R-PA-18th) or Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12th)
What it does: Expands and strengthens the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) so more children have access to nutrition meals and snacks in child care centers, family day care homes, and afterschool programs.
Why we need it: Currently 3.8 million children receive healthy meals and snacks daily from CACFP in family child care homes, child care centers, and afterschool programs. Unfortunately, too many children from low-income families are still unable to receive this vital aid. This bill would expand CAFCP’s reach and would also allow daycares to serve a third meal to children who are there for eight hours or more.