Child Nutrition Passes, but Includes Ill-Advised SNAP Benefit Cut

Dec 03, 2010

The child nutrition bill (Hunger-Free Kids Act) passed Thursday includes some important provisions that will simplify access to nutritional programs. The reauthorization package directs $4.5 billion over 10 years to carry out the provisions. This is less than half of the Administration's proposed $10 billion over 10 years, and is paid for in part through the ill-advised step of a reduction in benefits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly "food stamps").

This bill  will improve the nutritional quality of meals served at schools and child care settings and enhance access to free and reduced price meals and to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). 

Too many hungry children fail to receive benefits for which they are eligible.  The legislation expands and simplifies eligibility for school lunches, making the process paperless for many, and expanding direct certification for kids who qualify for Medicaid, those in foster care and many others. It updates the WIC program by allowing agencies to certify children to participate for twice as long and by mandating nationwide use of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards by 2020. These and other pieces of the Act will help child nutrition programs be more responsive to economic hardship and serve many more children, ensuring that more grow up healthy and focused on school rather than their empty bellies.  The act also includes changes to the Child and Adult Care Food Program  by  improving nutritional standards and decreasing the paperwork requirements for providers.

The SNAP cuts, however, will mean a benefit cut for millions of households, many of which include children.  If the SNAP cuts are not restored, children will receive healthier meals in school, but their families may be forced to buy cheaper less nutritious foods at home. 

SNAP is the largest and best established program to alleviate hunger and malnutrition that we have. It currently assists more than 40 million low-income Americans, including many of the kids who would benefit from the Hunger-Free Kids Act.  Congress had already cut this program short in order to provide $12 billion in offsets for the state jobs and Medicaid fiscal relief bill earlier this summer.  CLASP urges the Administration and Congressional leadership to act immediately to restore these cuts, before Congress recesses at the end of the month. 


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