On a party-line vote, the House Education and Workforce Committee passed the “Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016” which reauthorizes child nutrition programs including school breakfast, school lunch and summer feeding program.
The bill tightens the “community eligibility” provision that allows all students in high-poverty areas to receive free school meals. It would require USDA to conduct an immediate review of school meal standards including whole grain standards and the limits on sodium. This review would be conducted every three years.
One of the most controversial items in the bill is a block grant pilot program for school meals in three states. This provision is strongly opposed by the School Nutrition Association which said, “The block grant pilot is the opening salvo in an aggressive, alarming attack on the future of school meals. The provision opens the door to a broader effort to block grant school meal programs nationwide.”
According to the NSA, the block grant program would reduce funds for school meal programs and nullify federal mandates, including student eligibility rules for free and reduces meals and nutrition standards. The administration has threatened to veto the bill. If the bill passes the House it will not meet success in the Senate in its current form. The Senate Agriculture Committee earlier this year passed a bipartisan child nutrition bill that received support from the SNA, American Heart Association and the administration.