Last week the U.S. Committee on Education and the workforce approved the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill (HR 5003) authored by Congressman Todd Rokita. The bill includes the following:
- Changes to the school lunch program that if enacted could make it more difficult and, in some cases, prevent children from participating in the program even though they meet all the eligibility requirements.
- Changes the guidelines regarding which schools qualify for the Community Eligibility Program (CEP) through the USDA. CEP automatically identifies students eligible for free meals without the use of household applications. Currently schools can participate in the CEP program if at least 40% of its children are already receiving specific government assistance such as Supplementation Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF). The CEP program gives students the choice of whether they want to participate in the free and reduced lunch program.
- Requires 60% of students and their families at a particular school qualify for government assistance in order to qualify for the CEP. This would affect 120 schools currently in the program in Indiana, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
- Under the new provisions those schools who do not qualify for the CEP program could only notify eligible students a limited number of times, creating an additional roadblock for vulnerable families whose incomes fluctuate.
- Creates a pilot block grant program that would give states the discretion to more freely shape free and reduced lunch programs in their state, including the tests to determine eligibility.
- Raises the number of students on federal aid needed for schools to gain eligible students. Other provisions include reducing whole grain standard, delaying the sodium reducing target, and prohibiting schools from publicizing the Free and Reduced Lunch program on informational materials regarding lunch plans.
It is not known at this time when the full house will vote on the bill.
If you feel these provisions provide unnecessary restrictions to low-income children, please tell your legislator to “oppose it.” That’s Congressman Todd Rokita for Greater Lafayette residents (phone: 765-838-3930).
To learn more about the potentially negative affects of this bill, click HERE. To read the Letter to the Editor opposing this bill, click HERE. To learn more about how you can help your community through legislation advocacy, click HERE.