Committee Republicans Pass Harmful Bill Restricting Access to Healthy School Meals
Committee Democrats fought fiercely to prohibit the rollback of evidence-based standards and offered proposals aimed at increasing access for students and families in need
WASHINGTON – TODAY, Committee Republicans voted (20-14) to turn back the clock on the evidence-based nutritional standards of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The Majority’s bill – H.R. 5003, the so-called “Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016” – contains many harmful provisions that would make it more difficult for low-income schools to feed their students. Despite the innocuous title, H.R. 5003 threatens to eliminate and weaken the nutrition safety net for our nation’s most vulnerable students and families. Innumerable studies have shown that healthier schools meals have a positive impact on students’ academic performance, behavioral outcomes and long-term health.
“Our work to reauthorize our child nutrition programs presents a great opportunity to continue to improve the way children eat, to expand their access to nutritious meals, and to end the child hunger crisis in our country,” said Committee on Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03). “We’re never going to get there by walking away from successful policies that benefit vulnerable children and families. Speaker Ryan promised ‘bold action’ to increase opportunity for low-income Americans. Limiting access to healthy meals for our nation’s most vulnerable children is certainly not the ‘bold action’ working families need or deserve from Congress. I urge my colleagues to join House Democrats in fighting for policies that level the playing field and promote real opportunity for our nation’s families.”
“Today, House Republicans on the Education and Workforce Committee refused to take meaningful steps toward ending child hunger and improving school nutrition,” said Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Ranking Member Marcia Fudge (OH-11). “More than 15 million children across this country live in food insecure households. School breakfast and lunch are all too often the only meals some children receive in a day. We owe it to these children, and to all America’s children, to increase access, not add barriers. I stand with Ranking Member Scott, and the 750 national, state, and local organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Americans in firm opposition to H.R. 5003. I urge my congressional colleagues to do the same.”
This partisan bill contains harmful provisions that threaten a number of House Democratic Priorities, including:
- The erosion of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which provides free, nutritious meals to 8.5 million low-income children in 18,000 schools and eliminates burdensome application requirements for districts, schools, and families;
- The imposition of additional time-consuming administrative procedures on schools and families, procedures that could result in fewer eligible children receiving access to healthy, nutritious meals;
- The lack of meaningful investment in the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) program, which provides children in rural areas, Tribal Nations, and areas of extreme need such as Flint, Michigan with summertime nutritional assistance;
- The failure to make critical improvements or investments in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) or the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP);
- The increase of unnecessary restrictions on outreach that schools can conduct to families to encourage them to apply for free or reduced priced school meals; and
- The undoing of the evidence-based nutritional standards introduced by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which have been adopted by nearly 99 percent of schools across the nation.
Ranking Members Scott, Fudge, and fellow Committee Democrats offered 26 amendments in attempt to remedy some of the harshest proposals of the Republican’s bill. Unfortunately, all but only a handful of those amendments to the underlying bill were agreed upon. As we move forward in this process, any child nutrition reauthorization must serve to improve access to healthy foods in schools and other settings and maintain robust nutrition standards in federal nutrition programs.
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