What People Are Saying: Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act

WASHINGTON — On July 20, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (VA-03) and Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee Chair Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) introduced a comprehensive, evidence-driven reauthorization of federal child nutrition programs that meets the needs of children and families. The Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act (H.R. 8450) builds on Congressional Democrats’ work to expand school and summer meal programs, increase access to federal nutrition programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and prevent child hunger.

Here is what leading child nutrition experts and advocates are saying about the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act:

Food Resource & Action Center“Today, House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) unveiled the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act, the Committee’s much-anticipated Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill. It is a comprehensive plan that will increase access to school meals, summer meals, and child care meals like never before. FRAC is delighted that the House heeded the calls of anti-hunger organizations from across the country to address the rising rates of child hunger, support access to and participation in the federal child nutrition programs, and continue improving the nutritional quality of the meals served. This game-changing legislation will significantly move the needle on ending child hunger and improving health. 

“The bill builds upon the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has continued to highlight the importance of the federal child nutrition programs as families recover from the ongoing health and economic fallout of the pandemic. During the pandemic, food insecurity increased for households with children, with a disproportionate impact on Black, Latinx, and Native American households.

“FRAC commends Congress for including provisions that ensure children have access to the nutrition they need year-round. These critical investments will help end childhood hunger, improve health, and support academic achievement and child development. FRAC enthusiastically supports this plan and urges the House Education and Labor Committee to quickly pass the bill so it can move to the House floor. Hungry children can’t wait.”

National WIC Association“It has been twelve years since Congress last reauthorized WIC and the child nutrition programs, and WIC providers are simply no longer operating in the same landscape as 2010. Two years into a global pandemic and several months into an infant formula recall, new parents have embraced program modifications and new technologies that streamline access to WIC without sacrificing the quality of WIC’s healthy foods or tailored nutrition services. The Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act would codify thoughtful reforms that will unleash further innovation in WIC’s clinic-based services and shopping experience, mirroring standards already commonplace in healthcare and commercial retail settings. Remote certification and appointment options have upended a nearly decade-long trend of declining child participation, demonstrating that more flexible services can enhance WIC’s reach and amplify WIC’s public health impact. The urgently needed improvements in this bill seamlessly incorporate lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to build a modern and accessible WIC for the next generation of families with babies and young children. 

“Modernizing WIC will also strengthen the federal response to urgent public health concerns, especially as the program reaches nearly half of all infants born in the United States. As the nation continues to grapple with higher maternal mortality rates than comparable nations – driven by entrenched racial disparities – extending WIC’s postpartum eligibility can mitigate risk factors before and during a subsequent pregnancy while providing crucial touchpoints for education, screening, support, and referrals. Expanded investments in WIC’s breastfeeding services will deepen the program’s commitment to tackling income- and race-based disparities in breastfeeding initiation and duration, a first step in improving the nation’s fragile infant feeding infrastructure after the pain caused by Abbott’s recall. As WIC contributes more to these public health priorities, the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act will also close inequitable disparities for the WIC population, including by scaling up online shopping options for participants by 2025 and improving the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

“The Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act advances common-sense reforms that reflect bipartisan support for WIC’s crucial public health mission and provisions from five different bipartisan bills. Approximately three-quarters of likely voters have signaled support for key reforms included in this bill – including remote certifications, postpartum eligibility extension, and online shopping. We thank the broad coalition of legislators on both sides of the aisle who have contributed to the ideas included in this legislation, and we applaud Chairman Scott and Chair Bonamici for their leadership in advancing this reauthorization. With too many flexibilities contingent on the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, the time for legislative inaction is over. NWA calls for swift passage of this legislation in the House and urges Senate leaders to make quick work of passing these needed reforms into law.”

Alliance to End Hunger Executive Director Eric Mitchell: “On behalf of the Alliance to End Hunger, I would like to thank you for your leadership and commitment to child nutrition. Your recent introduction of the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act marked a significant step in long- overdue Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR). As a coalition of over 100 companies, nonprofits, foundations, universities, healthcare organizations, and individuals, the Alliance to End Hunger shares your desire to ensure kids do not fall behind due to poor nutritional outcomes, and we commend your desire to incorporate lessons learned from the pandemic into new legislation.

“We are at a critically important point in time to ensure the future health and wellbeing of our kids. Child Nutrition Reauthorization is crucial, and we are eager to work with you to ensure a strong bill passes both the House and Senate and reaches the President’s desk.”

American Academy of Pediatrics“Pediatricians know that healthy nutrition in childhood sets the foundation for lifelong health and development. Through improving and expanding access to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children and ensuring children have access to healthy meals during the school day and beyond, the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act would help children to have the nutrition they need to grow up healthy and thrive. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thanks Representatives Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) for their leadership on this bill and calls on Congress to advance it without delay.”

Academy of Nutrition and DieteticsThe last Child Nutrition Reauthorization – the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act – passed in 2010. The Academy calls on members of the U.S. House of Representatives to swiftly pass this piece of legislation, factoring in the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to strengthen and expand the reach of child nutrition programs that are a critical line of defense against food insecurity for millions of America’s children.”

Feeding America“As the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, Feeding America applauds Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) for introducing the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act of 2022 to reauthorize the child nutrition programs.

“The bill makes strong investments and improvements to ensure children can access meals all year, increase nutrition quality across programs, and simplify program administration and operation. This includes long-needed enhancements to eligibility and access for school meal programs, child care meal programs, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). 

“When school gates are locked for summer or other long breaks, millions of children are locked out of what is often their only reliable source of balanced, nutritious meals. This legislation makes critical improvements to help meal providers reach children when school is not in session. Specifically, it increases efficiency by allowing community-based organizations to operate a single program year-round and lowering the key program eligibility threshold for summer meal sites. These provisions will streamline administrative procedures for provider organizations, like food banks and other community-based organizations, and make more summer meal programs available to children facing hunger. The bill also establishes a Summer EBT benefit of $75 a month to bolster the grocery budgets of families with low incomes during summer breaks. In recent years, Summer EBT pilots and the temporary Pandemic EBT program have proven that this approach lowers food insecurity among children and leads to more nutritious meals.”

“We urge Congress to stand firm against child hunger by passing the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act.”

Save the Children“Save the Children proudly supports the newly introduced House version of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR), which includes much-needed and historic child-centered improvements. This CNR, if signed into law, would make child nutrition programs more fit for the future and increase access to nutritious food and services for children and families. This includes making it easier to apply for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits and providing support for many of the innovative programs that successfully fed children during the pandemic, especially in rural communities.

“With this legislation, Congress has a critical opportunity to improve the lives of millions of children and their families by removing barriers to accessing nutritious foods and addressing child hunger and malnutrition. Save the Children applauds the House Education and Labor committee, particularly Chairman Scott, for introducing this bill.

“Save the Children—together with its political advocacy arm, Save the Children Action Network, and more than 375,000 advocates nationwide—will continue to tirelessly advocate to ensure this CNR provides help to hungry children and their families. Our advocates will continue their successful campaign that included hosting 62 events across 14 states and sending over 26,000 messages to Congress in support of these meaningful, bold provisions in the CNR.”

Foodcorps“FoodCorps, alongside the schools and communities we partner with, applauds the House Committee on Education and Labor for pushing forward Child Nutrition Reauthorization. This bill’s dedicated investments towards expanding access to free school meals, food education, school kitchen equipment, local food procurement, and school nutrition staff training will significantly strengthen the health and educational achievements of our nation’s children. These are priorities that all members of Congress should support, and we are committed to continuing our work with coalition peers to ensure they are secured quickly. Our nation’s children, their families, and the school staff who support them deserve to start the new school year with certainty that every child has access to the nourishing food their bodies need to learn, grow, and thrive."

Ed Trust“As an organization working to close opportunity gaps that disproportionately affect students of color and students from low-income families, we recognize the urgency of ending student hunger. The Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act takes critical steps to address access to meals both in and out of school. We are especially pleased to see the expansion of Community Eligibility; a permanent, nationwide Summer EBT program; provisions to address lunch shaming and student meal-debt; and much more. We thank the Committee for their leadership in introducing this important legislation, and we urge its adoption.”

Afterschool AllianceBoys & Girls Clubs of AmericaFood & Resource Action CenterNational Recreation and Park Association, and YMCA of the USA“The important role that out-of-school time meals and programming, including during the summer and afterschool, will continue to play as communities recover from COVID-19 cannot be overstated. The Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act will eliminate many of the administrative challenges providers face in running these programs. The bipartisan Summer Meals Act provisions included in this new comprehensive legislation expand the reach of Summer and Afterschool Nutrition Programs, allowing all summer meal sites to serve three meals a day, creating a year-round program to more efficiently and effectively serve children, reducing the area eligibility threshold to allow more communities to participate, and providing funding to eliminate transportation barriers. Together, these provisions will result in more summer and afterschool programs providing nutritious meals alongside critical learning opportunities like YMCAs, park and recreation agencies, Boys & Girls Clubs, 21st Century Learning Centers, and more.

“The Afterschool Alliance, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, FRAC, National Recreation and Park Association, and YMCA of the USA are inspired by this bold legislative approach to improve child nutrition programs and commend the Committee. Our organizations fully support these out-of-school time provisions and will continue to advocate for these improvements as the bill moves forward."

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine“The Physicians Committee applauds the inclusion of provisions in the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act that will provide more nutritious meal options for our nation’s school children. By expanding access to plant-based meals and removing barriers that prevent students from accessing nondairy milk, this legislation will not only provide for healthier school meals, but it will also expand equity and put parents more in control of their children’s diet.”

American Heart Association: “Federal lawmakers last passed a child nutrition reauthorization more than a decade ago, leaving a gap in opportunities to update and improve a multitude of programs that help guarantee kids are not only fed, but have access to the healthy meals they need to thrive. The American Heart Association is pleased to see the House Education and Labor Committee’s child nutrition reauthorization bill. The legislation contains several key provisions that will protect and strengthen nutrition standards and expand access to healthy meals for kids. We look forward to working with Congress to ensure a final, meaningful piece of legislation.”

Friends of the Earth“In the midst of supply chain and labor challenges, worsening climate change, and ongoing child hunger, the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act meets the moment. This visionary legislation recognizes the importance of investing in the health of our children and the planet they will inherit. We applaud Chairman Scott for introducing this Act and urge the committee to swiftly advance it to the House floor.”

Youth Climate Save“Youth Climate Save members are very happy about the news of the inclusion of provisions in the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act because it shows our elected officials do truly care about the health of both the youth and the planet. We hope the committee advances this to the House floor because youth around the country want to be able to access nondairy milk and plant-based foods at schools, which is something that is currently not an option. We hope the committee takes into consideration the growing demand for plant-based foods and nondairy milk by youth and our parents because we care about our health and our future on this planet.”

Home Grown“Home Grown applauds the introduction of the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act and the proposed investments in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). We thank Chairman Scott and Representative Bonamici for the leadership in bringing this forward.

“Home-based child care providers care for more than 12 million children under the age of 13, including 6.4 million children ages 0-5. A significant portion of these children are experiencing hunger: 23% of families with young children experienced hunger in February 2022 and among lower-income families, that number climbs to a staggering 45%. Sadly, the providers caring for these children, and who are on the front lines of addressing this crisis, also experience hunger at alarming rates; one in three child care providers report experiencing hunger themselves. 

“Policy and practice changes are desperately needed to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to ensure equity, accessibility, and full potential of ensuring children are fed nutritious meals without placing burden on the child care providers, who make and serve the meals and may be experiencing hunger themselves. A strong renewal of the Child Nutrition Act, with investments in CACFP, is an important step forward.”


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