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School Nutrition Experts Call for Increased Flexibility of Child Nutrition Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today held a hearing to discuss the importance of federal child nutrition programs as the committee begins an effort to reauthorize these programs later this year.

“Healthy meals are vitally important to a child’s education,” Chairman Kline said. “It’s just basic commonsense that if a child is hungry then he or she is less likely to succeed in the classroom and later in life … It’s the responsibility of this committee and Congress to reauthorize these programs so that students and families receive the support they need in the most efficient and effective way.”

Witnesses echoed Chairman Kline’s sentiments. As First Lady of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe, remarked, “The impact of hunger and malnutrition on children is devastating, well-documented, and obvious to anyone who is a parent or works with children … How can we expect our children to be hungry for knowledge, if they are just plain hungry?”

The last reauthorization of child nutrition programs in 2010 vastly expanded the role of the federal government. As a result, program costs have increased while student participation has decreased. Furthermore, many schools are struggling to address wasted food and the nutrition needs of each individual student. When asked what Congress can do to improve these programs, witnesses responded with the need for increased flexibility to effectively serve children.

“Some of the new regulations have resulted in unintended consequences, which threaten our ability to better serve students’ nutritional needs,” said School Nutrition Association President, Julia Bauscher. She added, the US Department of Agriculture “estimated that this year, schools must absorb $1.2 billion in added costs as a result of the new rules.”

Senior Director of Share Our Strength, Duke Storen, highlighted the success of public-private partnerships to “make the federal programs run more efficiently and effectively” and to decrease the costs imposed on school districts.

Director of the Texas Hunger Initiative at Baylor University, Kathy Krey, agreed: “Public-private partnerships bridge local, state, and federal resources to maximize the efficiency and reach of these programs. Innovative collaborations increase the capacity of communities to take ownership of their needs so that children can stay fueled for learning all day, all year round.”

At the same time, Mr. Storen reminded members of the critical need to “update these programs to remove bureaucratic barriers and create efficiencies that will allow us to reach those kids who currently go without.”

"We have to find a better way forward," Chairman Kline concluded, "one that continues our commitment to providing nutritious meals for America’s students, while giving state and school leaders the flexibility they need to make it a reality."

To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.

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