WASHINGTON, D.C. | November 29, 2010
Taxpayers are spending billions of dollars each year to combat child hunger and improve the health and wellness of needy children and families. Rather than extending and improving current programs, Democrats have proposed legislation (S. 3307) to dramatically expand the number and scope of federal meal programs – adding billions in new spending, layers of new government mandates, and heavy burdens on states and schools because of pet projects and federal bureaucracy.
Democrats Create and Expand Federal Programs, Add Billions in New Spending
Democrats are using the lame duck session of Congress to propose a massive expansion in the number and type of federal meals and snacks – all layered on top of current programs. Democrats are calling for more than a dozen new or expanded programs and more than $4 billion in new spending. Among the new programs and federal mandates in S. 3307:
- Imposing federal nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, including baked goods for fundraisers and concessions at sporting events.
- Driving up the cost of school meals for working families by creating a federal price floor for paid lunches.
- Promoting school breakfasts – not with additional meals for children, but using federal dollars to pay for advertising and additional personnel.
- Funding boutique food preferences through an organic food pilot program.
- Paying cash “performance bonuses” for state and local breastfeeding rates.
- Federalizing “local wellness policies” and adding new school reporting requirements.
Budget Gimmicks Hide Billions More in Future Spending Obligations
Taxpayers are currently investing tens of billions of dollars to combat hunger, reduce obesity, and improve Americans’ health and wellness. In addition to the wide array of child nutrition programs in which we invest approximately $20 billion per year, Congress has spent billions more through the so-called stimulus, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the health care legislation enacted earlier this year.
Obscuring total federal spending on nutrition, obesity-prevention, and wellness programs, Democrats have used budget gimmicks to mask the true cost of their proposals. S. 3307 includes a number of pilots and other partial program expansions – new spending provided to a limited number of states or schools to hide the true cost of extending the programs nationwide. A similar proposal to take just one of these program expansions nationwide was included in a House version of this legislation at a cost of $483 million per year once fully implemented.
States and Schools Oppose Costly Federal Food Mandates
Republicans are standing with governors and school leaders against the costly new mandates imposed by S. 3307.
Letter from American Association of School Administrators, Council of the Great City Schools, and National School Boards Association (11/15/10)
“All of the national organizations representing the nation’s public school districts do not support the Senate version of the Child Nutrition reauthorization bill (S. 3307) pending before the House. … As a result, the nation’s school administrators, school boards, and big city school districts recommend passing a simple extension of current law.”
“Notably, none of the interest groups or celebrities promoting this bill bears the governmental and legal responsibility of school district officials to deliver services with an annual balanced budget.”
Letter from National Governors Association (5/5/10)
“The bill would establish a Federal mandate for every paid meal in every school in the country for the first time ever. … The provision will dramatically destabilize fair market pricing of school meals. The provision would also act as a disincentive for school districts to hold down meal costs, price out some low-income families from paid school meals, and punish school districts that in good faith have worked to increase the quality of school meals, while simultaneously holding down their paid meal prices.”
Republicans Would Extend and Improve Child Nutrition Investments
To ensure current school and community meal programs continue to serve the children and families who rely upon them – without expanding government costs or mandates – Republicans propose extending and modernizing the programs. A straightforward extension:
- Continues to serve more than 40 million children and 2 million expecting and new mothers each day.
- Continues to provide nutritious school lunches and breakfasts.
- Continues to provide meals and snacks outside of school to low-income children and adults who lack access to healthy meals.
- Continues to provide supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutritional education to low-income women and nutritionally vulnerable children.
In addition, Republicans are proposing reforms to update and improve the federal investment in child nutrition to better serve children. Those reforms would:
- Ensure food and milk served in schools meets current dietary guidelines.
- Eliminate waste and combating hunger by allowing schools to donate excess, unused food to food banks and shelters.
- Improve food safety by ensuring recalled foods are not served in schools.
- Combat program waste, fraud, and abuse with improved review and audit processes to ensure the programs are serving eligible children and families.
- Modernize and streamline payment systems by requiring electronic benefits transfer (EBT) systems in every state.
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