Congress May Leave Child Nutrition Programs Behind – By Gabrielle Levy Sept. 2, 2015 | 3:12 p.m. EDT

The reauthorization of the popular legislation could be overshadowed by other bills on the docket.

Cafeteria worker serving trays of healthy food to children.

Congress must reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act quickly, or students around the nation will no longer have access to free or reduced-price lunches.

A slate of child nutrition programs — including in-school breakfast and lunch, summer meals, and a supplemental nutrition program for impoverished women and children — is at risk as Congress comes back in session next week.

Lawmakers have only 10 days in September for an extended debate on the Iran nuclear deal and must find a way to fund the government by Sept. 30. But they also must reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act (also known as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act), which provides more than 20 million free or reduced-price lunches and more than 11 million free or reduced-price breakfasts for students each day. That’s more than 5 billion meals each school year.

If they don’t, millions of children stand to lose access to meals during the summer months when schools are not in session.

Originally passed in 1966, the act would now provide meals to a record number of children. Those in families with incomes below 130 percent of the federal poverty rate qualify for free lunch (the reduced-lunch threshold is 185 percent the poverty rate), and while child poverty has declined slightly since 2010, nearly 16 million children live in food-insecure homes.

In 2010, Congress  introduced new nutrition standards that are now in effect in 95 percent of schools in the U.S., according to an August report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


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