What is Child Nutrition Reauthorization, or CNR?

This post was last updated April 12, 2022. 

If you’re involved in child health in any way, you’ve probably heard the words “child nutrition reauthorization,” or CNR, get tossed around at some point. Advocates in the child nutrition world spend a lot of time focusing on CNR and what it means for school nutrition and student health. So, what is CNR? And more importantly, why should you care?

What 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 the process when Congress scrutinizes and updates laws that govern all child nutrition programs. These programs include school lunch and breakfast, summer meals, after-school meals, and more—it’s a pretty big deal.

How often does CNR come up?

The CNR process generally occurs every five years. However, the last time Congress reauthorized these programs was more than a decade ago— when it passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010. That means schools and meal providers are operating under outdated laws that don’t reflect the current needs of kids and families.

Congress has made several attempts to move on CNR in recent years, including beginning the process in the 2015-2016 session and holding hearings in 2019, but it has yet to successfully authorize new legislation. If you sense that you’re hearing from child nutrition advocates about CNR every few years, this is why—repeated attempts to start the process without ever finishing.

Got it. So why should I care about this?

If you care about the health of our kids—particularly kids who are impacted by systemic racism and classism in our food system—and you want to see change on a national scale, you should care about this process.  

Before the pandemic, 30 million kids ate school lunch every day. Many kids eat as many as half of their daily calories at school. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only brought more attention to the vital role schools play in feeding our kids and the need to support and strengthen these programs to recognize that role.

CNR is an opportunity to help make sure more kids, schools, and communities can access healthy, nourishing, and delicious fresh foods, and to make positive changes that push some of the government’s investments in a healthier direction.

What are the prospects for CNR in the future? 

Over the past two years, Congress has been squarely focused on supporting communities in building back from the pandemic. However, there is a narrow window of opportunity in the spring of 2022 before Congress turns its focus on the Farm Bill and the midterm election. FoodCorps is working closely with the congressional committee staff as they consider potential changes to the child nutrition programs.

What can I do to support CNR?

We need to be vigilant and be ready to advocate for the next CNR—and issues like food education, local procurement, upgraded cafeteria equipment, and farm to school—and to guard against actions that weaken these vital programs. Keep an eye on our action center for other opportunities to get involved.

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FoodCorps is a non-partisan, non-profit organization. FoodCorps staff and FoodCorps AmeriCorps members may not participate in any partisan or seemingly partisan activities during work time charged to a Corporation for National and Community Service funded grant or while earning AmeriCorps service hours. No federal funds were used to prepare or distribute these advocacy actions.