November 11, 2010
The Child Nutrition reauthorization bill, a landmark opportunity for lawmakers to establish stronger nutrition standards in schools, improved its odds of passage in the lame-duck session of the House this week when Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) removed their opposition to the bill.
DeLauro and McGovern had opposed the bill, and in doing so had voiced the concerns of many Members of the House Hunger Caucus and Progressive Caucus, because $2.2 billion of its total $4.5 billion in new funding for school feeding programs would be offset by a cut to the food stamp program in the form of an earlier stop to temporary food stamp benefit increase included in economic recovery act. However, pressure from the White House and support for getting the nutrition bill done from an ever widening number of organizations, have moved the lawmakers to favor the bill.
Read the Associated Press’ account of the representatives’ newly granted support here.
The pending bill, which the Senate passed this summer, must be passed by the House during the lame duck session of Congress in order to get to the President’s desk for his signature. The House will attempt to pass the bill under the “suspension calendar” which will require a two-thirds yes vote.
The bill includes $40 million in mandatory funding for a new Farm to School competitive grants program to be run by USDA. The effort to secure mandatory funding for farm to school has been an NSAC priority.
DeLauro and McGovern support the bill on the condition that Congress find a way to replace the funding taken from food stamp programs, and on the assumption that it will be easier to find this offset than to try to defend the bill to the more deficit-wary Congress taking office in January 2011.
Further improving the chances of the House passing the bill, on Thursday, November 11, the hunger-relief charity Feeding America sent a sign-on letter in support of the bill to Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and John Kline (R-MN), the leaders of the House Education and Labor Committee. The letter is signed by nearly 200 national groups, including NSAC, and over 1,000 state and local organizations, including a large number of anti-hunger organizations.
The letter recognizes the compromise that hunger and child nutrition groups had to arrive at, writing, “We are troubled that the bill is paid for with a reduction in SNAP ARRA benefits…Yet we also recognize that with one in four children at risk of hunger and one in three overweight or obese, our children cannot afford to wait for the improvements to child nutrition that are made in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.”
However, at least one organization, the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), remains opposed to the bill. On Tuesday, November 9, FRAC released a report on the persistence of “food hardship” throughout the nation. The report showed that between January and September 2010, an average of 17.7% of Americans experienced an “inability to afford enough food at times” over the previous twelve months. FRAC concluded the report by urging Congress to “stop the damaging raid on SNAP benefits and move a child nutrition bill that is not financed by cuts in monthly SNAP allotments.”
Nearly all observers agree there is no way to move a bill with a different offset this year, so opposing the bill until there is a different offset essentially means starting the whole process over again in the new Congress and postponing any meaningful reform or improved funding for child nutrition and school meal programs.
NSAC will follow the Child Nutrition bill closely when Congress reconvenes next week and will continue to work for its passage. To read our post about the bill from September, after it was put on hold until the lame duck session, click here.