On July 20, 2022, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-CA) released the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act, his Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill. The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and other anti-hunger advocates have hailed the legislation, calling it a “comprehensive plan that will increase access to school meals, summer meals, and child care meals like never before.” The bill must be voted out of Committee quickly, before the August recess, if it has any hope of passing this year.
Among many provisions, the Act would:
- Dramatically increase children’s access to free school meals by expanding community eligibility which would allow more high-need schools to offer free meals to all students at no charge and expand direct (automatic) certification to include Medicaid;
- Provide critical protections for children and families with unpaid school meal fees and require school districts to take steps to determine if families who are accruing school lunch debt are eligible for free or reduced-price meals;
- Significantly expand access to summer meals and create a nationwide Summer EBT program, a complementary approach that would help close the summer hunger gap; give the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) waiver authority during federally declared emergencies;
- Allow for an additional reimbursable meal for children in a full day of care, helping to provide the full complement of meals young children need to grow and thrive;
- Modernize the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) by requiring WIC clinics to offer services over the phone and via video options and allow remote benefit issuance;
- Extend WIC benefits to children up to 6 years old, and extend certification periods to two years for infants, children, and postpartum individuals; and
- Create a pilot program to allow Tribal governments to express their inherent sovereignty in the space of food and agriculture by administering the child nutrition programs.