Sunday, September 26, 2010

Child Nutrition Act???

The Child Nutrition Act is set to expire on September 30. That’s just a few days away. What will happen? Will Congress act to expand the school nutrition programs that are funded under this act, and thus help move toward President Obama’s goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015 and toward the First Lady’s goal of reducing childhood obesity?

The Senate has passed its version of the bill (S. 3307 - Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010). After talking with legislative aides for Senator Stabenow (MI), Representative Tsongas (MA), and Representative Upton (MI), here’s our understanding of what the House could do:
  • The House could vote on the Senate bill as it stands. The Senate bill includes an increase in the reimbursement rate for school meals, allows schools nationwide to offer supper to children in after-school care, requires more nutritious meals, and makes it easier for children to qualify for free and reduced cost meals.

    However, many House members and hunger advocates dislike the Senate bill because it partially pays for the increased cost by taking money away from the SNAP program. SNAP is arguably the best program to end childhood hunger, so the Senate bill is seen by many as having the potential to actually make childhood hunger worse in the long run.

    Others defend the Senate bill, saying that the actual dollars removed from SNAP actually wouldn’t have taken effect until 2013. And since Congress is finding it so difficult to come up with funding for any programs, it’s better to use this SNAP money to feed hungry kids than for some other unrelated program.
  • The House could vote on its own version of the bill (H.R. 5504 - Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act), which increases benefits more than the Senate version, and does not take benefits from the SNAP program to pay for any of the increase in benefits. However, if the House bill is passed, it would then need to go to a conference committee to iron out the differences in the House and Senate bills, and come up with a compromise funding mechanism for the bill. Whether this could be accomplished before the end of the legislative session is questionable.
  • Congress could pass a one-year extension of the bill, which would delay any improvements in the current childhood hunger legislation and let the next Congress deal with improving the bill. This option has the risk that the next Congress will be even less willing to work toward ending childhood hunger than the current Senate bill. 
Given no perfect options, we believe (on purely practical grounds) that the House should pass the Senate bill, ideally with an agreement to restore SNAP funding in the future. We’re waiting with bated breath to see if they agree!

No comments:

Post a Comment