Hitting the “Mark” with Child Nutrition Reauthorization

On March 17, 2010, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas released her “mark” for Child Nutrition Reauthorization.  The bill, known as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (“the Act”), was passed by the Senate Agricultural Committee on March 24, 2010.  The bill is now headed to the Senate floor and it is up to the Senate Finance Committee to find additional resources to fund the anti-hunger portions of the bill.

Reauthorization of the federal child nutrition programs takes place every five years and allows Congress to assess which aspects of the programs are effective and which aspects are not as effective in an effort to ensure that children have access to healthy meals.  The reauthorization amends the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act as well as the Child Nutrition Act of 1966; the former was enacted in 1946 to protect the health and well-being of American children, while the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 established the School Breakfast Program.  Although both the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program are permanent, other nutrition programs such as the Child and Adult Food Program (“CACFP”), the Summer Food Service Program (“SFSP”), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (“WIC”) must be reauthorized.

The Act takes steps toward ensuring that low-income children can take part in child nutrition programs by expanding the Aftershool Meal Program, improving direct certification for school meals, creating new paperless options for universal meals, and improving the nutritional quality of food served in school-based and preschool settings.  Below are some of the major provisions of the bill.

  • Expands the Afterschool Meal Program to All 50 states through CACFP (Currently the program is only available in 13 states)
  • Eliminates the limitation on the amount of sites and number of children nonprofit summer food sponsors can serve
  • Creates a paperless option that will allow schools in high-poverty areas to offer free meals to all students without the requirement of paper applications, which will increase access to meals for children and reduce the administrative burdens on schools
  • Improves direct certification by not requiring families to return a letter to their respective schools in order to establish eligibility for free and reduced priced meals
  • Uses Medicaid information from families to directly certify eligible children and provides states with bonuses as an incentive to improve their direct certification programs
  • Directly certifies children from families who receive assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • Makes foster children automatically eligible for free meals, thus eliminating the need to complete paper applications to obtain school meal benefits
  • Provides for performance-based increase in the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches to assist schools in meeting new meal standards for healthier school meals
  • Allows schools in high-poverty areas to offer free meals to all students without requiring the students to complete paper applications
  • Requires that meals, snacks, and beverages served through CACFP are consistent with the most recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines
  • Gives the Secretary of Agriculture authority to establish national nutrition standards for all foods sold on school grounds throughout the school day
  • Increases WIC research funding from $5 million to $15 million
  • Reduces any stigma that may be associated with participation in the WIC program while also increasing efficiency by switching from paper coupons to Electronic Benefit Transfer (“EBT”)


For more information about the Act visit the Food Research and Action Center website as well as the U.S. Senate Committe on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry website.