WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today introduced legislation that would make critical changes to nutrition programs to help schools cover the costs of purchasing healthy, nutritious foods. The National Child Hunger Relief Act of 2010, S. 3093, would provide funding to help federal school nutrition assistance programs adjust to rising food prices and cover the costs of food for those most in need.
“For millions of Americans facing hunger, the ability to afford the food they so desperately need has become increasingly more difficult. Congress can and must do more to make sure that school nutrition programs adequately cover the costs of healthy, nutritious food that these children need,” said Senator Casey. “That is why I am pleased to introduce this bill which will help make critical changes needed to help schools cover the costs of purchasing healthy, nutritious foods.”
Each summer, the United States Department of Agriculture sets new levels for school meal reimbursement rates based on the average of the previous year’s food price inflation. However, soon after implementation, especially in years of high food price inflation, these reimbursements begin lagging far behind current prices.
This bill would provide for semi-annual reimbursement rate adjustments for child nutrition programs. In addition to the current annual update in July to reimbursement rates for school meal programs, reimbursement rates would also be adjusted for inflation each January. As a result of this change, reimbursement rates for the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, the Special Milk Program, the Child and Adult Day Care Program and the Summer Food Service Program would more accurately reflect the costs that schools or service providers incur to provide foods through these programs. This, in turn, would help to keep the prices charged for foods provided to other children at schools more in line with the costs of procuring and providing those foods.
In 2008 alone, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that 49.1 million Americans did not have enough money or resources to get food for at least some period during the year. This figure is an increase of 13.6 million people over 2006 and an increase of 15.9 million people since 2000. In 2008, 16.7 million children were hungry, compared to 12.6 million children in 2006, an increase of 4.1 million hungry children, almost 33 percent, in just two years.
Benefits Under the National Child Hunger Relief Act vs. Current Policy:
Child Nutrition Programs (including the National School Lunch Program, school breakfasts, after-school snack programs, Child and Adult Daycare Program and Special Milk Program)
Current: On July 1, USDA sets new reimbursement rates based upon the average food price inflation of the preceding three-month period. Rates are not adjusted for another 12 months.
Hunger Relief: On July 1, USDA sets new reimbursement rates based upon the average food price inflation of the preceding three-month period. On January 1, USDA again sets new reimbursement rates based upon the average food price inflation of the preceding three-month period. This results in reimbursement rates being adjusted every 6 months.