Congress Passes Bill for Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization! What Does This Mean for Schools?

December 02, 2010

Good news for school food!

Today, the House of Representatives voted with strong and bipartisan support to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the bill that reauthorizes the Child Nutrition Act. The Senate voted unanimously in favor of the bill this summer. It will now go to President Obama’s desk for signature. As the act is reauthorized only once every five years, this vote marks a significant move to shape the future of school food.

Simply put, this is good news for children’s health. In a time when far too many children face both hunger and obesity, this bill presents an opportunity to set policy that will bring healthier food to the children who need it most.

We are concerned that the limited increase in the reimbursement will not alleviate the financial pressure facing school food programs. We will continue working with hard-working and creative school food service leaders to support their efforts to bring the healthiest meals possible to students.

However, we ultimately believe that the bill will have a positive impact on school food and children’s opportunities to live healthy lives.

This vote comes after nearly two years of advocacy for a reauthorization that makes healthy school food — and children’s health — a priority.

It’s been a long road since the Child Nutrition Act first came up for reauthorization two years ago. We commend the Congressional leaders who have stayed the course in making sure that children’s health remained  a priority throughout this long process.

And just as important, we express our sincere and heartfelt appreciation for the many advocates who continued to raise a collective voice in support of fresh, healthy school food during this lengthy and occasionally discouraging political process. It is hard to imagine that this health-promoting policy would have been successful without such strong and consistent advocacy from so many different communities of people who care about children’s well-being.

What does this mean for schools? The reimbursements that schools receive for the meals they provide will increase by six cents per meal. We’ll see improved common-sense nutrition standards for school meals. The legislation will bring policies that help schools send consistent messages about healthy eating throughout the school — including vending machines, school stores and more. It also includes provisions that should help simplify the process that children who are eligible for free meals go through to receive those meals. And the bill includes pilots for expansion of farm-to-school programs as well as organic foods.

As we’ve discussed, this is not a perfect bill. We advocated for more funding for school food and funding from different sources. But ultimately, we  believe this bill is an important step and will  bring meaningful change for kids’ health.

Stay posted for updates and more analysis in the weeks ahead.