Bills Would Reduce Paperwork, Increase Hungry Kids’ Access to Healthy Meals

December 22, 2009

By Amanda Chablani, HSC policy specialist

There’s been a lot of response from the media to the recently released USDA report on food security,
bringing attention to the often overlooked issue of hunger. While many
were surprised to learn that food insecurity is at an all-time high, others were more disturbed to learn that it has been a large problem since long before the recession began.

Add to this the fact that many of the families that suffer from food
insecurity have at least one full-time working adult and, as we’ve discussed,
the 17 million children who are being brought up in food insecure
families, and you get a lot of people suddenly paying attention to this
huge national problem.

While I’m sure hunger is a complex and nuanced issue, I also know there
are some fairly straightforward things that can be done that will have
a large impact, especially when it comes to children. Children are in
schools where free or reduced-price school meals are made available to
those who qualify. Therefore, theoretically, we can make sure kids from
food insecure families have access to healthy, nutritious meals.

Unfortunately, we also know that sometimes it is very hard to make sure
that the kids most in need of food actually get it. Because of any
number of issues, students are often not enrolled in the school lunch program. That’s why, in anticipation of the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, several bills
have been introduced that aim to directly certify kids (using records
from programs like SCHIP and Medicaid) so their families don’t need to
fill out (and schools don’t need to process) additional paperwork. (More context and background from a January 2009 HSC blog post.)

As Senators Bennet, Brown, and Casey explain about one such bill:

“No child should miss out on nutritious meals because of needless red
tape. By cutting through it, our bill would ensure access to meals for
an estimated three million additional children. When Congress renews
the child nutrition programs, the Hunger Free Schools Act must be
incorporated.” 

To learn more about the Child Nutrition Act, visit HSC's website