Congress Sends Childhood Nutrition Bill to the President’s Desk

Steps must now be taken to restore funding cut by the bill for Food Stamps program after Oct. 31, 2013 to pay for the initiative

On Thursday, December 2, 2010, the U.S. House passed S. 3307, the NAACP-supported Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, legislation which will aggressively fight the competing problems of malnutrition and childhood hunger in America as well as childhood obesity. These issues are serious problems facing American children right now, and they are disproportionately serious among racial and ethnic minority children. The NAACP is pleased that the bill will now go to the President, who has said he will sign it.

Specifically, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act authorizes the first increase in federal meal reimbursements to schools in almost 40 years, and, for the first time, gives the federal government the authority to regulate food sold at public schools, including through vending machines. It also reauthorizes and improves several programs, including the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs; the Woman, Infants and Children (WIC) program and the Summer Food Service Program. These changes are clearly needed: currently, one in four children in America is at risk of hunger and one in three overweight or obese. These figures alone contribute to the real urgency and need for reauthorizing, updating and expanding the Childhood Nutrition programs. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act increases children’s access to healthy meals by expanding the after-school supper program nationwide, better connecting eligible children with free school meals, and extending the WIC certification period for children to one year.

Unfortunately, the bittersweet reality of this victory is that the cost of the bill will be partially offset by moving up the end date of a temporary boost in benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the program which provides food stamps to low-income Americans. Under current law, this increase, which was put into place in response to the current recession by the 2009 stimulus bill, was set to expire at the end of March, 2014. Under provisions in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act it will now expire at the end of October, 2013. The NAACP is outraged that we must choose between funding a program which helps to feed families and one which will help feed children, and we are now committed to working with President Obama and others who have also pledged to restore the SNAP funding.

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