On Wednesday, January 20 it was all bipartisan with voice votes in approving a jointly drafted committee bill, the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016. The substitute bill draft was submitted by Committee Chairman Pat Roberts(R-KS) and Ranking Democrat Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
The unnumbered bill extends a number of child nutrition programs including school lunches, the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Summer Meals, and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. It is especially important to one key CWLA priorities, child care.
Under the CACFP improvements, qualifying child care programs will be allowed to add an additional snack for children in child care for nine hours or more in a day. The provision is a restoration of a benefit cut that had been enacted during the Reagan Administration. In addition, the child care nutrition program will simplify eligibility for propriety child care centers; it expands access to schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs; and allows residential child care institutions (child welfare) to now participate in the CACFP in addition to their ability to use of the School Lunch Program.
Senator Roberts was enthusiastic in his support saying, “Over the past year, I’ve consistently beaten the drum about the need to reauthorize child nutrition programs and today, I’m pleased to be singing a new tune. We have a bipartisan agreement. My goals for child nutrition reauthorization have remained the same from the start – a bipartisan package that increases efficiency, effectiveness, integrity and flexibility of these programs. I’m proud to say that those goals – and more – have been accomplished by this Committee in a manner that is also responsible to the taxpayer.”
Other key changes in the bill includes allowing Summer Food sponsors that are not schools to continue the provision of meals and snacks to children after school even when the school year has re-started. This provision simplifies the process for providers and will help improve access for children and families year round. The provision starts out in seven states growing to 12 states by 2019 and increases its expansion each year after. Advocates hope that appropriators, over time, can speed up this expansion. Another limited expansion allows a small start-up by six states to provide third meals in a day. This is conditioned on an annual appropriation.
The bill also makes improvements in WIC by extending eligibility to age six from age five, simplifies the eligibility process in some instances and expands the use of EBT (automatic teller) methods.
Not to be forgotten is the fact that the bill extends the National School Lunch Program and protects much of the new school meal standards that have been a key priority for First Lady Michele Obama. There are some compromises but mainly a preservation of the efforts to improve child nutrition through school meals.
Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow said “This bipartisan bill puts the health of America’s children first. We are making sure our children get nutritious meals based on smart, science-based policies to give every child a fair shot at success. The investments made in this bill will give important new resources to fight hunger, from WIC to the summer meals program.”
According to the USDA, the CACFP provides meals to 3.3 million children daily in child care centers, family care homes, and after-school programs and 120,000 adults in Adult Day Care. For more information you can go to Child and Adult Care Food Program and for advocacy analysis go to the Food Action Research Center (FRAC) legislative center.