There is a variety of anti-hunger programs in the United States, ranging from emergency assistance programs, to food banks, to food stamps, to child nutrition programs.
Hunger and the 111th Congress
Every fiscal year, Congress passes a budget that allocates funding for discretionary spending programs. Most nutrition programs are funded through these discretionary spending provisions. The Fiscal Year 2010 Agriculture Appropriations bill was passed in October, extending the Child Nutrition programs for another year at the same levels of the previous year. Among the highlights:
- The Appropriations bill added three more states (Connecticut, Nevada, Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia to the popular Afterschool Meal Program, which is now available in 13 states and which hunger advocates hope will be expanded to all 50 states in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill.
- The bill provided over $125 million in funding for new initiatives aimed at increasing access for the Summer Food program, improving the nutrition and health of children in child care and improving food service equipment, especially at schools with 50% of more of their students eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
- The bill provided an increase of $2 to the value of the fruit and vegetable vouchers for women participating in WIC, bringing the total value to $10 per month as recommended by the Institute of Medicine.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization
Every five years Congress must consider the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act. The School Breakfast, National School Lunch and Special Milk Programs are authorized permanently and will continue even without Congressional action, but all other child nutrition programs, including Child and Adult Food Care Program, Summer Food Service Program and Afterschool Snack and Meal Programs, will expire if actions are not taken. The existing act is scheduled to be reauthorized in 2010. Anti-hunger advocates are lobbying Congress to expand access and increase participation in the programs, especially given recent statistics that show food insecurity at an all-time high among American families. Advocates are also calling for improving the quality of school meals by increasing financial support for schools to introduce more nutritious food into their breakfasts and lunches.
In March 2010, Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) introduced her version of Child Nutrition Reauthorization, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S.3307), which would invest $4.5 billion over 10 years in new funding for Child Nutrition Programs. The bill was passed unanimously out of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and is now awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) introduced his Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill, the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act (H.R.5504). This bill improves on the investments made in S.3307, providing $8 billion over 10 years in new funding. The bill was passed out of the Education and Labor Committee by a vote of 32-13, and as of August 2010 has 67 co-sponsors. It is also awaiting a full House vote.