Helping children access nutritious meals has long been a national priority. Students simply cannot learn and succeed in the classroom if they are hungry. That is why a variety of programs currently assist states, schools, and other institutions as they serve children and families in need, such as the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). These programs play an important role in the lives of millions of low-income children and families. Unfortunately, a wave of new federal rules and mandates have imposed restrictions and costs on state and school leaders, making it even harder to meet the nutritional needs of children.
In 2010, rather than heed Republican calls to continue and improve child nutrition assistance, the Democrat-led Congress vastly expanded the federal role in child nutrition. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act facilitated a host of new regulations that have led to higher costs for schools and fewer students being served. In fact, new rules and nutrition standards put in place in 2012 are expected to increase school costs by more than $3 billion. Meanwhile, overall student participation has declined more rapidly than any other time in more than 30 years. To make matters worse, nonpartisan government watchdogs continue to raise concerns about fraud and abuse in these programs, undermining the assistance needy families rely on.
To strengthen nutrition assistance for children, families, and taxpayers, Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, introduced the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016
(H.R. 5003). The legislation reauthorizes and reforms federal policies to ensure states, schools, and providers have the flexibility they need to provide children access to healthy meals without additional or prohibitive costs.
THE IMPROVING CHILD NUTRITION AND EDUCATION ACT:
- 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.
- Strengthens the integrity and efficiency of the WIC program by supporting a faster transition to electronic benefit transfer (EBT).
- Supports nutrition education across programs and helps bring families into schools to engage in the healthy development of their children.
To read the bill summary, click here