Child Nutrition Bill Threatens to Leave Kids Behind

For many laws, Congress is required to review and adjust them for current needs. The child nutrition bill faces such a review. Previously a bipartisan bill, it addresses children’s access to healthy and nutritious food. Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives, passed a new bill called the “Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act 2016 (H.R. 5003).” Every Child Matters, the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), and other local community organizations oppose this year’s bill. We believe it creates barriers for children and families, preventing them from receiving nutritious meals while in school or participating in community and early learning programs.

Some notable changes to the current bill include:

Community Eligibility Provision (CEP): CEP allows children in high poverty districts to receive breakfast and lunch at school. This current proposal would take this away from children in 7,000 schools. Additionally, 11,000 more schools could lose it in the future.

Verification Requirements: The current proposal imposes needless burdens on eligible students trying to access free or reduced price meals. This particularly hurts homeless, migrant, immigrant children.

Inclusion of Eligibility Requirements: The bill places onerous new regulations on local school districts, creating barriers to providing children in need of nutrition services. This includes limiting the application periods to twice a year, thereby making it more difficult for families to access this benefit. This is a great burden for working poor, homeless, and or migrant families facing fluctuating and uncertain economic conditions such as job loss.

Child Care: The proposal ignores previous efforts to ensure that children have an additional snack if they are in child care for long hours while their parents are working.

Summer Food Program: The proposal prevents community and local organizations – nonprofit organizations and local agencies not located within schools – to operate the Summer Food Service Program year round. This imposes limits on children’s access to food as, during the summer, only eight states (Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, plus the Cherokee and Chickasaw Nations) will be permitted to deliver nutrition services to high need communities.

Additionally, the bill makes harmful changes to the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program (WIC) as it pertains to current evidence-based school nutrition standards, and regulations regarding the provision of snacks and beverages. The House bill curtails historical efforts to combat child hunger and poverty, an impediment to closing the opportunity gap. Every Child Matters has signed the Food Research & Action Center’s petition to oppose the current block grant provision. For more information, visit the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC).