Senate approves sweeping child nutrition bill

SENATE APPROVES SWEEPING CHILD NUTRITION BILL…. There was a flurry of Senate activity this week, as members prepared to leave town for a month-long recess, but the success of the child nutrition bill shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle. It was a policy win for kids and public health, and a political win for nutrition advocates and First Lady Michelle Obama, who championed the effort.

The Senate on Thursday approved a long-awaited child nutrition act that intends to feed more hungry kids and make school food more nutritious, and it provides for $4.5 billion over the next decade to make that happen.

Called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, it passed the Senate unanimously and now moves on to the House, where passage is also expected. National child nutrition programs are set to expire on September 30.

The legislation will expand the number of low-income children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, largely by streamlining the paperwork required to receive the meals. And it will expand a program to provide after-school meals to at-risk children.

Most notably, for the first time in nearly four decades, lawmakers approved “the first non-inflationary increase in the reimbursement rate for federal-sponsored school meals — the amount local districts are repaid by the federal government.”

Michael Jacobson, the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said, “The Senate bill changes the school food landscape in ways that are all positive. Put simply, it will get junk food out of, and put more healthy food into, America’s schools. It preserves the free and reduced-cost meals that many families depend on in an economic downturn.”

Annie Lowrey posted some additional details from the Senate Agriculture Committee on what the bill does, including expanded after-school meals for at-risk children and increased eligibility for school meals.

In this toxic political environment, there aren’t many bills — even deficit-neutral, common-sense proposals — that can pass with unanimous support. It’s a nice way for the Senate to wrap up the pre-recess session.