How to Help Fight Childhood Food Insecurity
It's time to pass the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids ActPatricia Griffin
August 10, 2022
COVID-19 taught us many lessons, but the importance of federal child nutrition programs has remained front and center as many families work to recover from the pandemic’s ongoing health and economic fallouts. Even before the pandemic, almost 3 million households with children did not have reliable access to nutritious foods. During the pandemic, the chef community was able to respond immediately and support emergency feeding efforts for children and families, while the federal government developed ways to support food insecure people across the country. Several of the programs that required modification are programs that are authorized through the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR).
The latest Child Nutrition Reauthorization—the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act 2022—is moving forward in the House of Representatives and we need your support.
What is Childhood Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR)?
As the name implies, CNR usually includes a variety of child nutrition programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including school meals such as the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP), the Summer Food Service Program, Special Milk Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). In addition, CNR includes the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the related WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program. Lastly, programs such as the Farm to School Grant Program and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program are included in this legislation.
Every five years, Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) provides Congress with an opportunity to improve and strengthen child nutrition and school meal programs. Although the current law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-296), expired on September 30, 2015, the programs within it continue to operate.
What is the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act?
This specific version of the CNR will help address both pre-existing inequities as well as food insecurity spurred by the pandemic. Specifically, the legislation will:
- Expand access to school meals by lowering the threshold for schools to qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision
- Preserve the future of school meal programs
- Modernize WIC (streamlining the application process, expanding the breastfeeding peer-counselor program, and more)
- Address child food insecurity during the summer
- Improve school meal capacity and sustainability
- Strengthen the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
Why is it Important?
In the U.S., millions of children benefit from programs authorized through CNR—namely those residing in low-income households. As a result of participation in either the NSLP and/or SBP, children across the U.S. have experienced improved food security, dietary quality, and health and learning outcomes. Additionally, data consistently shows that WIC is a cost-effective program, which improvies health outcomes for low-income families. This includes positive birth outcomes, increased child intake of essential vitamins and minerals, and reduced risk of obesity among child participants. These documented benefits underscore the need to ensure that WIC benefits are accessible to all eligible individuals. This includes strengthening access for tribal and indigenous communities and expanding eligibility for postpartum women for two years post-birth and children up to age six.
The House of Representatives passed the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act bill out of the Education and Labor Committee (committee of jurisdiction) on July 27, 2022. It will then be negotiated with the Senate, when they return from the August congressional recess, and both chambers must vote on the final product.
What Can I Do?
Now is the time to call your member of Congress to let them know that you want them to pass the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act!
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Patricia Griffin is a partner of NVG, an impact-driven government relations firm. Patricia has worked at various organizations, including YMCA and AmeriCorps, where she specialized in food, community development, and housing policy.