Will the U.S. Finally Take a Holistic Approach to Ending Child Hunger?

Lisa Held for Civil Eats

Over the last 18 months, an alarming rise in child hunger—over 17 million children did not have consistent access to enough food in 2020—caught the attention of many federal lawmakers, prompting them to call for an overdue evaluation of the country’s child nutrition programs.

In March, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry kicked off a process that involves updating a broad collection of child hunger and nutrition programs. Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) is supposed to occur every five years, but Congress hasn’t reviewed it since 2010, when President Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act made historic changes to school meal nutrition standards.

Now six years late, lawmakers and advocates say the COVID-19 pandemic and a racial justice reckoning have created the political will to not only ensure that the country’s young people are fed, but that the programs also address systemic inequalities. The Biden administration is supporting decisive, progressive action.

“Among other things the pandemic revealed about our country was the fact that there is pervasive inequality, especially racial inequity, and then the crucial role that federal programs can play during a national crisis,” said Mamiko Vuillemin, senior manager of policy and advocacy at FoodCorps, an organization that works to improve school meals and food education. “We definitely see school food as a way to address racial injustices and inequalities that we have in this country.”