Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act would be a game changer for child nutrition programs

Our state is stronger when every Nebraskan has the food they need. That’s why we fight for stronger and more accessible federal and state food assistance programs – to make sure nobody is food insecure. The House Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) Bill, also known as the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act (H.R.8450), would make it easier for families and children who need it to get the food they need in and out of school through child nutrition programs such as school breakfast and lunch, after school and summer meals, WIC, and CACFP.

Among the many good things in this bill, here are some policies that we especially support:

Expanding No-cost Meals

  • The Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act would expand the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) so that more schools could serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to students.
    • The 1.6 federal multiplier would move to 2.5, allowing more low-income districts to qualify for the program.
    • The eligibility threshold would go from 40 to 25% of identified students.
    • Statewide CEP would be made an option.
  • An additional 10 cents in reimbursement would be provided for every lunch served nationwide.
  • Funding for kitchen improvement, scratch cooking, and professional development and training would be provided.

Unpaid Meal Debt

  • Prohibits schools from publicly identifying students with stickers, stamps, bracelets or other means when they have school meal debt.
  • Requires schools contact parents/caregivers directly about debt, not the student.
  • Prohibits schools from throwing away a student’s food once it has been served.
  • Requires schools to attempt to directly certify with unpaid meal debt, rather than letting them continue to accumulate debt.

Summer Meals

  • The House bill would allow for more participation in summer meals by lowering the Free and Reduced Price Lunch requirement from 50 to 40%.
  • 3 meals per day service would be allowed instead of just 2.
  • $10M in competitive grant funds to address transportation and congregate meals challenges in rural areas would be provided.
  • The Summer EBT program would be authorized nationwide, giving families additional access to summer meal options, especially in rural areas.

Nutrition

  • Strengthen evidence-based nutrition standards for school meal patterns and update them regularly.
  • Commission a report analyzing sweeteners, dyes, and potentially harmful substances in food.

We believe the investments in child nutrition programs noted above are strong next steps toward reducing childhood hunger, improving child nutrition and wellness, enhancing child development and school readiness, and supporting academic achievement.

Congress will soon be on a month-long August recess, but after they return, both the House and Senate must act quickly to pass the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act – stay tuned for updates and opportunities to take action!

Learn more about the bill here.

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