If you’re involved in child health in any way, you’ve probably been hearing the words “child nutrition reauthorization,” or CNR, get tossed around quite a bit. Advocates in the child nutrition world have been busy talking about it and what it means for schools. So, what is CNR? And more importantly, why should you care?
What the heck is Child Nutrition Reauthorization, anyway?
It sounds like the name of a bill, but CNR is actually a process, not a law-to-be. Child Nutrition Reauthorization is what it’s called when Congress scrutinizes and updates the laws that govern all child nutrition programs. The programs in question include school lunch and breakfast, summer meals, after-school meals, and more, so it’s a pretty big deal. The process generally occurs every five years, although the last time Congress reauthorized the programs was in 2010 when it passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Congress started the process in the 2015-2016 session, but it never crossed the finish line, in part due to policy differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. However, unlike some other policies, such as the farm bill, the child nutrition programs continue to operate as normal, even without a reauthorization.
Congress has already started holding hearings on child nutrition. In the House, the Education and Labor Committee has jurisdiction over the child nutrition programs and held a hearing back in March. And in the Senate, the Agriculture Committee oversees the child nutrition programs and held a hearing in April.
Got it. So why should I care about this?
If you care about the health of our kids, particularly those kids who are facing food insecurity or who disproportionately face the impact of diet-related disease, and you want to make large-scale change, you should care about this process and the bill that will come from it. Every day, 30 million kids eat a school lunch. And in FY17, the federal government invested almost $18 billion in school food. CNR is an opportunity to make positive changes to programs that can help make sure more kids, schools, and communities are able to access —and enjoy—healthy and nourishing fresh foods and can push some of those investments in a healthier direction.
Conversely, as advocates, we need to remain vigilant and prepared to speak out against harmful policies that restrict access to these vital programs or attempt to reduce funding or weaken the science-based nutrition standards that support healthier meals.
FoodCorps is actively working with our partners in Washington, D.C. to help push Congress to make sure more kids get access to healthy food. We look forward to working with you all and activating you to raise your voice with your members of Congress along the way. Keep an eye on our action center in the coming weeks and months.