WASHINGTON, D.C. | May 18, 2016
Since the passage of the National School Lunch Act
in 1946, child nutrition programs have played a significant role in the lives of millions of vulnerable children and families. Helping all children receive nutritious meals has helped students learn and succeed in the classroom.
However, in recent years, the Department of Agriculture has put in place new rules and mandates that vastly expand the federal role in child nutrition, making it even harder for states and school districts to meet the needs of their students.
These changes have resulted in higher costs for schools and fewer students being served. As a matter of fact, a study conducted by the National School Board Association found that 85 percent of school districts saw an increase in wasted food, 76.5 percent saw a decrease in student participation, and 82 percent have had an increase in costs to schools.
House Republicans believe we can do better. That’s why we are working to make sensible reforms to the nation’s child nutrition programs. Introduced by Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN), the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 (H.R. 5003) will strengthen nutrition standards in a way that provides flexibility to state and local leaders and meets the needs of all students. The bill will:
- Require the department to consult with school leaders in its review and update of nutrition standards.
- Ensure standards do not limit participation, are appropriate for the needs of school age children, and do not increase costs to schools.
- Expand access to nutritious fruits and vegetables for all schools.
- Enhance program integrity by fighting fraud, waste, and abuse.
- Improve community eligibility by targeting assistance to those most in need while continuing to provide all eligible students access to healthy meals.
- Provide states more flexibility to serve nutritious meals during the summer, especially to children living in rural and low-income areas.
- Strengthen the integrity and efficiency of the WIC program by supporting a faster transition to electronic benefits transfer (EBT).
As Chairman Rokita said, “It’s time to provide those responsible for implementing child nutrition programs with the flexibility they need to ensure taxpayer dollars are well spent and students are well served.” And that’s exactly why the committee is considering this important legislation this week.
As Congress works to advance the proposal, school leaders have voiced their support for its reforms.
- The National School Boards Association stated the bill, “makes substantive progress toward incorporating local school district perspectives into [the] administration of child nutrition programs—perspectives that ensure children can access both healthy nutrition and a world class education so vital to student success.”
- The Council of the Great City Schools said the bill “provides some welcome flexibility and relief from … unnecessary and costly federal requirements, and helps address school breakfast costs.”
- The School Superintendents Association “supports the bill’s focus on the areas in the nutrition standards that may be adding unforeseen burdens on schools” and noted the “review of these standards takes the politics out of [them] and will alleviate the burden while focusing on nutrition.”
By streamlining the review process, providing flexibility to schools, and ensuring state and local leaders have a voice in setting nutrition standards, Congress will help ensure the students most in need have access to healthy meals for many years to come.
For more information on these reforms and the bill’s other commonsense measures, click here.
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