Why this could be a big year for child nutrition
But first some history
In 2010, when congress last took on Child Nutrition Reauthorization, the national deficit stood at about $1.3 trillion, and America was still recovering from the Great Recession. During his address to Congress, Barack Obama emphasized the need to “sacrifice some worthy priorities” and “do what it takes” to bring down the deficit. Fear of spending reverberated through congress and ultimately pushed Democrats to barter $2.2 billion in cuts to SNAP funding to pay for the child nutrition improvements included in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
Although we feel a strong sense of deja vu in the current economic crisis, previous fears about the danger of public debt have largely subsided. On the heels of passing one of the largest aid packages in history, President Biden rolled out a series of bold child nutrition proposals to Congress. His American Families Plan calls for historic investments in Summer EBT and school meals alongside other investments, and his $1.5 trillion discretionary budget proposal would invest an additional $1 billion in funding for nutrition programs.
The Biden Administration is inviting Congress to invest in our nation’s child nutrition programs and there are several legislative vehicles that could bring about large scale change. Regardless of the route taken, now is a good time to let your members of congress know your child nutrition priorities.
Congress would like to pass an infrastructure package this year. Biden has already laid out his priorities, detailed in the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, but Republicans and Democrats are trying to come to an agreement. Although the GOP has signaled they are willing to go higher on spending, Democrats can in theory pass their own partisan bill through a process known as budget reconciliation. Regardless of the route taken, now is a good time to reach out to your members of congress and lift up Biden’s proposal.
The discretionary budget is the annual appropriation of funds for discretionary spending - although most federal nutrition program funding is mandatory and does not need to be annually appropriated, discretionary spending is needed for some programs, including WIC and the Older Americans Act nutrition programs. Congress has an opportunity to significantly invest in these and other discretionary programs for fiscal year 2022. Now is a good time to weigh in with Appropriations members: government funding bills are expected to go through Appropriations subcommittees and full committee markups next month.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization
Child nutrition reauthorization is a process Congress uses about every five years to review the laws that govern child nutrition programs. The Senate held their first informational hearing in March and hearings may occur in the House this summer. Child Nutrition Reauthorization could “move” later this year. In the meantime, you can help lay the groundwork. Invite your members to sign on as sponsors to child nutrition “marker bills.” Marker bills are pieces of legislation introduced in Congress that are intended for inclusion in a larger bill. Check out FRAC's website for a list of some of those bills.