On December 2nd, the House passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S. 3307) by a vote of 264-157 which contains the most significant improvements to child nutrition programs in more than 30 years. Among its numerous provisions, the bill has two major goals: reducing childhood hunger and reducing childhood obesity. Both of these problems have gotten worse in recent years. Currently, the poverty rate for children is 20.7 percent - up from 15.6 percent in 2000 - and childhood hunger is correlated with poverty. In addition, one in three children are currently either overweight or obese - up dramatically over the last 20 years. The Senate passed this bipartisan bill by unanimous consent on August 5th. The President signed the bill into law on December 13, 2010.
Focusing on Nutrition Quality to Improve Children's Health and Reduce Childhood Obesity
- Improves the nutritional quality of school meals by increasing the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches for school districts that comply with federal nutrition standards - the first reimbursement rate increase in more than 30 years. An additional 6 cents per meal will help schools meet new meal standards to provide children with healthier school meals.
- Requires the Agriculture Department to develop science-based nutrition standards for all foods sold on a school campus during the school day - which will lead to significantly reducing the availability of high calorie junk foods and sugary beverages on school campuses.
- Promotes nutrition and wellness in child care settings by establishing nutrition requirements for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) (which includes providing meals to young children in preschool settings, such as child care centers and home-based child care, as well as to children participating in after-school programs) and providing guidance and technical assistance to support healthy child care settings.
- Connects more children to healthy produce from local farms by helping communities establish farm-to-school programs, create school gardens and use more local foods in school cafeterias.
- Strengthens local wellness policies to help schools, communities and parents identify and implement strategies to make a real difference in helping children to develop healthy behaviors when they're away from home.
Improving Access to Child Nutrition Programs to Reduce Childhood Hunger
- Increases the number of eligible children enrolled in school meals programs by using Medicaid data to directly certify children who meet income requirements without requiring household applications. This provision is estimated to connect about 115,000 new students to the school meal programs.
- Connects more children with school meals by setting benchmarks for states to improve their direct certification of children (rather than requiring household applications). Incentive bonuses will encourage improved performance. This provision is estimated to connect an additional 4,500 students per year, on average, to the school meal programs.
- Expands the after-school supper program for at-risk children nationwide, by allowing the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) providers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to be reimbursed for providing a meal to at-risk children after school. This provision is estimated to provide an additional 21 million meals to at-risk children annually.
- Enhances universal meal access for eligible children in high poverty communities by eliminating paper applications and using census data to determine school-wide income eligibility.
- Encourages innovative methods to provide meals to children through pilot projects in- and out-of school.
Improving Program Management and Program Integrity
- Supports schools' food service budgets by preventing unrelated expenses from being charged to school food service accounts.
- Establishes professional standards and training opportunities for school food service providers.
- Improves food safety requirements for school meals by improving recall procedures and extending existing food safety requirements to all places where school meals are prepared or served.
- Increases efficiency and modernizes the WIC program by transitioning from paper food vouchers to an electronic benefit program.
- Streamlines program administration by reducing paperwork for CACFP (Child and Adult Care Food Program) providers. Sponsors will have greater flexibility with their administrative funds, be freed from duplicative paperwork requirements and freed from wasteful monitoring practices.
- Provides for greater information sharing between WIC and CACFP providers in order to reduce administrative burdens for CACFP providers.
The Bill's Offsets
The bill's cost of $4.5 billion over 10 years is fully paid for.
This Senate-passed bill is partially paid for by $2.2 billion in future cuts to temporary enhanced benefits provided to SNAP (food stamp) participants through the Recovery Act. Many Congressional Democrats, including Chairman Miller, Congresswoman DeLauro and Congressman McGovern, strongly object to the future cut in SNAP but strongly support House passage of S. 3307 today because the child nutrition policy improvements are too significant and the child health challenges are too great to let this opportunity pass. This SNAP offset would eliminate the temporary benefit increase to households, beginning in November 2013. Many of the improvements in S. 3307 take effect before these SNAP cuts would be implemented, and House Leaders are reassured by a commitment from President Obama to work with Congress to replace this offset before these SNAP cuts take place.
Following is an overview of the bill's two other offsets:
- Saves $1 billion over 10 years by extending a provision that allows the Secretary of Agriculture Supports schools' food service budgets by preventing unrelated expenses from being charged to school food service accounts.
- Saves approximately $1.3 billion over 10 years by restructuring the nutrition education component of SNAP (the food stamp program) into a new grant program. The new grant program would distribute federal funds by formula to states and eliminate the requirement for states to provide matching funds.