From the Kitchen to the Congress: A Child Nutrition Reauthorization Blog

Two New Bills Introduced: After School Meals and Nutrition Information

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May 12, 2009 -- With the calendar year almost half way over, two more bills have been introduced in Congress relating to child nutrition reauthorization, bringing the total up to fifteen.   

Late last week Representative Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) introduced the Healthy Food Choices for Kids Act (HR 2322), a bill designed to improve nutrition in schools by posting nutrition information, developing nutrition information awareness programs, and consulting with school nutrition experts to provide guidance on schools' nutrition programs. The proposal takes a multi-layered approach to improving children's nutrition by both teaching children to make healthy food choices and improving the nutrition of food available at school cafeterias. Braley's bill would create a voluntary pilot program at 100 American schools-ten schools in ten different states. Under the Healthy Food Choices for Families Act, the US Department of Agriculture would award grants to schools participating in the pilot program.  The bill also requires the Agriculture Secretary to report to Congress every two years on the progress of the pilot program. The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Courtney (D-Conn.,) Rep. Hare (D-Ill.) and Rep. Loebsack (D-Iowa.)   

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) also introduced legislation late last week to provide more children with healthy meals when the school day ends. The Stabenow-Lugar AFTERschool Meal Act would make important changes to increase participation in the nationwide school meal program, allowing children from all states to benefit from this exceptional initiative. Afterschool programs take on an additional importance as parents increasingly work longer, non-traditional hours, and more and more children require afterschool care. S. 990 would allow all states to be eligible to participate in the full afterschool meal program. Schools would be eligible to receive reimbursement either through CACFP or through the Russell School Lunch/Breakfast Program, removing an unnecessary administrative burden. Grants would also be authorized to help states with start-up costs. U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) also co-sponsored the legislation.

Any comments on these bills? Would your program benefit from offering school suppers?

Reauthorization Hearings Announced for This Week

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 May 12, 2009 -- The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, as well as the House Committee on Education and Labor have announced hearings on Child Nutrition Reauthorization 2009. 

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a field hearing in Atlanta, Ga. on Friday, May 15th from 1:00-3:00 PM at the Roybal Campus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The hearing will focus on the benefits of farm-to-school programs, healthy eating, and physical activity.  A full witness list is expected to be posted soon, however witnesses are expected to come from the USDA, CDC, Action for Healthy Kids and the National Farm-to-School Network.

On Thursday, May 14, 2009, the Healthy Families and Communities Subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee will hold a hearing on “Improving Child Nutrition Programs to Reduced Childhood Obesity.”  Witnesses for this hearing include:

  • Representative Mike Castle (R-Del.)
  • Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.)
  • Michele Paterson, First Lady of New York
  • Nancy Cooperman, Director, Public Health Initiatives Office of Community Health, North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System, Great Neck, N.Y.
  • Dr. Virginia Stallings, MD, Chair, Institutes of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Nutrition Standards for National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs
  • Dr. Patricia Crawford, MD, Director, Atkins Center for Weight and Health, Berkeley, Calif.
  • Additional witnesses TBA

And next week, the House Rules Committee - Subcommittee on Rules and Organization will also hold a hearing to consider child nutrition related legislation. On Monday, May 18th, the committee will discuss H.R. 2297, The White House Conference on Food and Nutrition.


Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

House Committee on Education and Labor


Sunday News Round-Up

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A couple of Sunday newspaper articles caught our eye yesterday. The Washington Post had a good piece (Md. Meal Program Suffering in Schools) on the challenges facing school nutrition programs in Maryland: inadequate reimbursement rates, declining paid participation due to meal price increases, and rising food and labor costs. The article could have been written about school nutrition programs in almost any state and come out similarly. It is just the latest compelling article on the need for increased federal (and state and local) funding for school meals through Reauthorization this year. On a related note, 90 of 120 school nutrition programs in North Carolina are now operating in the red due to lack of adequate funding and increased costs.  

The Des Moines Register, the most widely read paper in Senator Harkin's (D-IA) great state of Iowa, covered the other big Reauthorization topic on Sunday: national nutrition standards. The piece (Healthful Shift Ahead for U.S. Schools) explores the challenges and opportunities around the nutrition standards issue and focuses on Senator Harkin's Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act. Definitely worth the read!

Finally, the New York Daily News had a column reiterating the need for significant funding increases through the through the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act - a call echoed by food bank officials in NYC. Child Nutrition Problem Hungry for Solutions quotes Joel Berg, executive director of the New York Coalition Against Hunger, as saying "It's hard to imagine a higher budget priority than ensuring that all families have enough to eat."