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Calls for Improvements Ahead of 2009 Child Nutrition Reauthorization

August 7, 2008

In the wake of the 2008 Farm Bill reauthorization, legislators and anti-hunger advocates are preparing for the 2009 Reauthorization of Child Nutrition and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Programs. The Child Nutrition Program includes funding for subsidized free and low-cost school and summer meals for children, while the WIC Program offers nutrition assistance to low-income pregnant or breastfeeding mothers and children under 5. Funding for these programs will likely be affected by the recent increase in food prices which have significantly raised the cost of both WIC-authorized items and school meal production, and concurrently led to higher demand for nutrition assistance.

Representatives of the USDA have argued for simplification and standardization of the school meal application process, which would rely on government data to expedite applications. USDA representatives also support increasing the number of children eligible for free meals by eliminating the social security number requirement for applicants. Participants in recent town hall meetings sponsored by the School Nutrition Association identified the need for improved and uniform nutrition standards, and have called upon legislators to eliminate reduced-price meals in favor of free meals for all qualified applicants. All parties stressed the need for increased federal funding for both Child Nutrition and WIC.

The Child Nutrition Act was signed by President Johnson in 1966 as an improvement upon the earlier School Lunch Act of 1946. Upon signing the Act, Johnson stated that good nutrition is essential to good learning.

The USDA is currently holding listening sessions in U.S. cities to gather opinion about reauthorization priorities. Comments are also being accepted via regulations.gov and may be faxed to (703) 305-2879.

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