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Committee Approves Bill to Reauthorize, Improve Child Nutrition Assistance

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today approved H.R. 5003, the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016. Introduced by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), the legislation reauthorizes and reforms federal child nutrition programs to ensure states and schools have the flexibility they need to provide children with access to healthy meals without additional or prohibitive costs. The bill passed the committee by a vote of 20 to 14.

“When it comes to helping students succeed, there are few things more basic than making sure they eat and eat healthily at school. The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act allows schools to target assistance more effectively while increasing spending on children in actual need, all without adding to our nation’s debt problem,” Rep. Rokita said. “This is a major step forward in making sure an appropriate safety net exists and that the First Lady Michelle Obama-inspired nutrition standards are revised so that school food is more edible. I look forward to continuing our efforts to improve federal child nutrition programs for children, families, and taxpayers.”

“The massive expansion of the federal government’s role in child nutrition has made it more difficult for schools to deliver the assistance their students need,” Chairman Kline said. “We can do better than prescriptive mandates that lead to higher costs and fewer children being served, and this proposal promises to move us in a better direction. This responsible legislation will improve our investment in nutrition assistance and ensure all children and families in need have access to healthy meals. I’d like to commend Representative Rokita for his hard work and leadership on this issue, and I look forward to continuing to advance this important legislation.”

BACKGROUND: A variety of child nutrition programs currently assist states, schools, and other institutions as they serve children and families in need. However, a wave of new federal rules and mandates has imposed restrictions and costs on state and school leaders, making it more difficult to meet the nutritional needs of children and families. In 2010, the Democrat-led Congress vastly expanded the federal role in child nutrition, introducing a host of new regulations that have led to higher costs for schools and fewer students being served.

To strengthen child nutrition assistance for children, families, and taxpayers, Rep. Rokita introduced the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016. The legislation:
  • Requires regular review of federal nutrition standards to ensure they are based on sound science, reflect the input of school leaders, and meet the needs of all students.
      
  • Enhances the verification process in order to increase accountability and transparency, and rein in fraud and abuse.
      
  • Improves community eligibility by targeting assistance to those most in need while continuing to provide all eligible students access to healthy meals.
      
  • Provides states more flexibility to serve nutritious meals during the summer, especially to children living in rural and low-income areas.  

During the markup, the committee accepted a number of Republican and Democrat amendments, including:
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) that would provide schools more flexibility in purchasing milk for students;
       
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA) to study how utilizing private-sector partnerships can improve child nutrition programs;
      
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) that would clarify the secretary of agriculture can consult with pediatricians, dieticians, and parents as he or she reviews nutrition standards;
         
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) that will help states better monitor the Child and Adult Care Food Program to improve oversight and ease administrative burdens; and
         
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) that would allow other forms of electronic benefit transfer in the summer EBT pilot program.

Opening statements, amendments, and other markup materials will be available here.