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How Well Do Two Child Nutrition Bills Address Children's Needs?

Both the House and Senate have introduced legislation that will reauthorize vital child nutrition programs that are set to expire at the end of September.

Unfortunately, both bills fall short of the president’s requested funding of $10 billion over 10 years, but the House bill, funded at $8 billion over 10 years, is more robust than the Senate’s and comes close to the president’s goal. Both  take needed steps towards increasing accessibility and expanding outreach of the programs to reach more children. Important measures to increase program efficiency and accessibility such as elimination of paper applications and direct certification expansion as well as measures to help reduce childhood obesity, such as nutrition improvements, funding for farm-to-school programs, and an increase in the federal meal reimbursement rate, are included in both bills.

While both bills include many of the same requirements, there are still differences between them that will need to be reconciled, in particular provisions on the Summer Food Service and School Breakfast Programs and area eligibility rates.

NETWORK supports both bills and advocates for full funding of the bills at $10 billion over 10 years.

S. 3307

The Senate bill (S. 3307), introduced by Sen. Blanche Lincoln on March 17, is currently waiting on the Senate’s calendar for a vote on the floor. The bill, titled “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010,” has been funded at only $4.5 billion over 10 years by the Senate Agriculture Committee, falling short of the president’s request. This bill does not currently have any cosponsors.

Strong points of this bill include:

  • $20 million in grants provided for Summer Food Service Program expansion.
  • Increases the number of Summer Food Service Program sites.
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program expands suppers to all 50 states.
  • Foster children made automatically eligible for free school meals.
  • Elimination of paper applications which makes access easier.
  • Mandatory funding for pilot projects that will provide nutritious food to hungry children.
  • Increases the federal reimbursement rate of school meals by 6 cents per meal.
  • Provides funding for farm-to-school programs.
  • Expands WIC certification to 12 months.

Weak points of this bill include:

  • No funding for School Breakfast Program expansion grants.
  • Does not increase access to Summer Food Program by lowering eligibility rates.
  • Does not meet president’s requested funding – only provides $4.5 billion over 10 years.

H.R. 5504

The House bill (H.R. 5504) that was introduced on June 10, sponsored by Rep. George Miller and cosponsored by 30 other representatives, has not yet passed committee approval. This bill, “Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act,” has mandated $8 billion in funding over 10 years.

Strong points of this bill include:

  • Increases the number of Summer Food Service Program sites.
  • Foster children and Medicaid users directly certified for school nutrition programs.
  • Elimination of paper applications which makes access easier.
  • Mandatory funding for pilot projects that will provide nutritious food to hungry children.
  • Increases the federal reimbursement rate of school meals by 6 cents per meal.
  • Provides funding for farm-to-school programs.
  • Provides $10 million for expansion of and grants for the School Breakfast Program.
  • Increases access to Summer Food by lowering area eligibility to 40% in rural areas.
  • Expands WIC certification to 12 months.
  • Comes closest to president’s funding request—total of $8 billion provided in funding.

Weak points of the House bill include:

  • No grant funding for expansion of Summer Food Service Program.
  • Area eligibility for Summer Food is only lowered to 40% in rural areas, not nationwide.
  • No nationwide expansion of the afterschool meal program, only allowed in 5 states.