WASHINGTON, DC— U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today applauded final congressional passage of The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S.3307). The bipartisan, completely paid-for legislation will make the most historic investment in child nutrition programs since their inception. Senator Casey added language in the legislation allowing for a socioeconomic survey like the one in the Philadelphia School District for universal feeding.
“Sending this bipartisan child nutrition bill to President Obama is a victory for children and families in Pennsylvania and across the country,” said Senator Casey. “In these tough economic times, more children depend on these programs so they don't go hungry. More than one million children participate in the school lunch program in Pennsylvania with nearly 200 million lunches served each year.”
Senator Casey’s language would allow up to three school districts to participate in a socioeconomic survey program for universal feeding. With universal feeding, all kids in a school receive free meals, rather than some kids getting free meals, some paying a reduced price and some paying full price. This will make it easier for schools serving very high proportions of low-income children to serve free school meals to all students. Schools will benefit from reduced paperwork while distressed parents will not have to fill out duplicative forms and needy children will not face stigma in the cafeteria.
The school district would conduct a scientific survey of the community to determine eligibility for free and reduced-price meals, rather than requiring each child’s family to fill out individual paper applications or relying on transfer of data from other programs such as SNAP. The data would then be used to determine a school’s eligibility for universal feeding as well as the amount of the district’s reimbursement from the federal government for the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals. The cost of the other meals is borne by the district. The school or district gets administrative relief in exchange for covering any costs that exceed federal reimbursements.
The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act provides the first non-inflationary increase in the Federal reimbursement rate for school lunch programs since 1973. The bill also takes a critical step to address the epidemic of childhood obesity with a provision to require the Secretary of Agriculture, through a transparent regulatory process, to establish national nutrition standards consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for all foods sold on school campuses throughout the school day.
Detailed summaries of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act are available here: http://ag.senate.gov/site/legislation.html.