On May 18, the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee passed The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016, their version of Child Nutrition Reauthorization. The bill violates our first priority for any reauthorization bill – to do no harm.
Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, as well as Feeding America and other national, state and local organizations, oppose this bill for the following reasons:
The bill includes a 3 state pilot of block granting school meal programs
- Any block granting of the child nutrition programs would fundamentally change the structure of the school meal programs and prohibit states from serving all children in need.
- Block granting wouldn’t allow states to respond if poverty rates increased because they would have a finite amount of resources to be used for school meals.
- Block granting would allow states to restrict eligibility for free school meals, weaken nutrition standards, and possibly even shift funds to other uses.
The bill weakens the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)
- 246 Pennsylvania schools serving 104,000 students would lose CEP.
- CEP was created during the last Child Nutrition Reauthorization process. This option allows high-poverty schools to reduce administrative paperwork burden and focus on feeding children.
- The provision is popular with schools, administrators, and families. It has made school lunch and breakfast programs more efficient and ensured access and participation among low-income children, improving student achievement, health and behavior.
The bill fails to address shortfalls in the Summer Food Service Program
- The provision which streamlines two separate programs that often serve the same kids at the same sites – the Summer Food Service Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) – does not allow nonprofit organizations and local government agencies that are not schools to operate the Summer Food program year-round.
- Sponsors of streamlined sites – those operating both Summer Food and CACFP – would receive the lower CACFP reimbursement rate. Sponsors of the Summer Food program, which has a higher reimbursement rate, are already subsidizing costs to be able to provide these meals to children in their communities. Further lowering the reimbursement rate will increase the financial burden on these organizations or cause them to not offer the meals.
- Pennsylvania is not included among the very few states which would benefit from the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) provision. This provision provides money on something like a debit card for the purchase of food over the summer – particularly in rural areas where children cannot get to site based programs. Pilot programs have shown Summer EBT programs to be very successful.
We urge all members of Congress to oppose any bill that causes harm and will ultimately lead to fewer children getting the nutrition they need. We believe there can be a bipartisan approach – such as the Senate’s version of the bill – to reauthorize and strengthen these programs in a fiscally responsible way that helps reduce administrative burden and feed as many children in need as possible.