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Child nutrition reauthorization

November 23, 2011
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Boy eating Oregon Food Bank volunteers and advocates asked Congress to pass a reauthorization for child nutrition programs with more funding for meals for children. This bill, called the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act, passed on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010, ending a two-year legislative process. By a vote of 264 to 157 the House of Representatives passed the bill (S. 3307) with bipartisan support. We thank Oregon Representatives Wu, Schrader, and Blumenauer for voting in favor of the bill. Representative DeFazio did not cast a vote. The Senate passed S. 3307 in August (Oregon Senators Wyden and Merkley voted in favor). President Obama signed the bill on Monday, Dec. 13, 2010.

We thank all of you for your efforts to make the child nutrition bill as strong as it is. These are extremely difficult economic times, and the congressional climate leans away from increased spending. Despite that, child nutrition advocates raised their voices and Congress responded with record new investments.

That said, S. 3307 is a mixed bag.

The Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act invests an additional $4.5 billion in child nutrition programs over the next ten years, falling short of the investments needed to meet President Obama’s commitment to end childhood hunger by 2015. While not as robust as we would have liked, the bill does contain several provisions that will improve the nutritional quality of meals in schools, child care centers, and summer meal programs. The bill:

  • invests $40 million in farm-to-school programs
  • improves school lunches
  • makes all foods sold on school campuses healthier

Sadly, to help pay for these new provisions, Congress cut future Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp) benefits included in last year’s economic stimulus package.

Oregon Food Bank supported the passage of this bill because it is the best bill we could get in the current economic and political climate. We are disappointed that SNAP (food stamp) cuts were used to pay for improvements in child nutrition programs. SNAP serves as the first line of defense against hunger in the United States and the program provides crucial nutrition assistance to a record 730,000 Oregonians. Along with many of you, we fought hard in 2007-8 to raise benefit levels during the reauthorization of the farm bill.

We must, and will, raise our voices in support of SNAP and restore the cuts before they take effect in three years. With your help, we will do just that…because no one should be hungry.