Windows of Opportunity: Your May Policy Updates

Congress is at work on major legislative packages, including child nutrition reauthorization, or CNR, and recovery plans. This provides a ripe window of opportunity for advocates to champion initiatives, appropriations, and legislation that aim to make sure that all people, especially children, have access to healthy, nutritious foods. 

Child nutrition reauthorization is underway in the Senate 

In March, the Senate Agriculture Committee held its first hearing to kick off child nutrition reauthorization (CNR). Committee Chair Deborah Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-Ark.) emphasized their aspirations for a bipartisan process. 

Several of our partners, including Dr. Diane Golzynski, Health and Nutrition Services Director at the Michigan Department of Education, and Carlos Rodriguez, President and CEO of Community FoodBank of New Jersey, testified highlighting the challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic in ensuring that children receive healthy meals. They also emphasized the importance of improving our child nutrition programs so that they better support all children, especially those from historically marginalized and low-income communities.  

As part of CNR, members of Congress introduce marker bills that they hope will be included in the final legislative package. FoodCorps, National Farm to School Network, and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are working to build support for four bills: Food and Nutrition Education in Schools Act, Farm to School Act of 2021, Kids Eat Local Act, and School Food Modernization Act. Learn more about the four bills here

Together, these complementary bills provide crucial support for schools, farmers, and underserved communities in rebuilding equitably from the pandemic while building on the progress we have made in connecting students with healthy food in schools. 

Congress needs to hear from you now! We need your help to ensure these provisions are included in the next child nutrition reauthorization. Join us in raising your voice and urge your members of Congress to cosponsor legislation that supports healthy kids and healthy schools! 

President’s recovery plan supports food and nutrition priorities 

In March, President Joe Biden signed into law a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 recovery bill called the American Rescue Plan. The law was a win for food and nutrition advocates—key provisions included an extension of the 15% boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the pandemic EBT as well as $4 billion in direct debt relief to Black farmers. 

As a proud partner in the coalition organization Voices for National Service, FoodCorps also applauded the $1 billion in additional funding allocated to support national service. This additional investment supports not only increasing service member living stipends but also expanding the number of service members serving communities around the nation in the years to come. 

What’s next? The Biden administration has proposed two additional sets of recovery plans that would further help the nation build back equitably from the pandemic while providing additional support to families and children: the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. The American Jobs Plan includes provisions for modernizing schools, including by updating school kitchen infrastructure to equip them to be able to provide fresher, more nutritious foods. The American Families Plan includes key nutrition provisions—making the Summer EBT program permanent, expanding access to school meals by strengthening the Community Eligibility Provision, $1 billion to support a new healthy school food incentive program, and ensuring SNAP benefits to formerly incarcerated individuals.

These are still proposals, and Congress needs to take action in order for these provisions to become law. We will let you know when it is time to raise your voice.   

USDA extends pandemic-time school meal benefits  

On April 20, the USDA extended free school meals through the 2021-2022 school year, which will help ensure that all children have access to healthy, nutritious foods and that schools have the resources to make that happen. This waiver extension follows mounting reports on the key roles that schools play in providing healthy meals, with school meals being the healthiest meals that some children may eat in the day. 

The USDA also recently extended the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program  through the summer of 2021, estimating that this extension will help feed 30 million children this summer. Pandemic EBT, authorized by Congress last year when schools shut down nationwide, has provided millions of low-income families with grocery dollars for kids who rely on free or reduced-price meals.