Hunger Task Force applauds the House of Representatives' passage on December 2, 2010, of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This legislation, which Hunger Task Force and many other groups have worked on for over two years, will reduce childhood hunger in Wisconsin and improve the quality of meals served to schoolchildren. The legislation would expand eligibility for school meal programs, establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, and provide a six-cent increase for each school lunch to help cafeterias serve healthier meals. The legislation also makes many important changes to the WIC Program and expands after-school supper programming to all fifty states. Passage of this legislation marks the first time reimbursement rates for school lunches have increased since 1973 and goes a long way to helping reach President Obama’s goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015.
In many ways, Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) is the bill thousands of hungry children have been waiting for. Nearly 200,000 children in Wisconsin live in poverty. Four in ten Wisconsin students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. FoodShare and WIC programs are experiencing unprecedented participation levels across the state. 80 percent of Milwaukee Public School students qualify for free or reduced price meals while 39 percent of Milwaukee children live in poverty. Milwaukee’s Fueling Young Minds collaboration serves over a million meals to needy children in the summer. The programs regulated by CNR—school breakfast and lunch, summer meals, after-school dinners, and WIC (or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children)—directly assist in fighting childhood hunger.
The congressional child nutrition bill does have a significant drawback. Unfortunately, Congress financed the child nutrition bill by taking away SNAP (food stamps) benefits from future beneficiaries. In fact, it is estimated that a typical household of four will lose $59 per month in SNAP benefits once the cut goes into effect in October 2013. Nearly half the individuals receiving SNAP are families with children, making this CNR victory bittersweet. Hunger Task Force strongly disagrees with using this mechanism to pay for the child nutrition bill. We urge Congress to find a responsible way to restore the SNAP cuts before it adjourns this year. As anti-hunger advocates gear up for the federal Farm Bill reauthorization in 2012, we expect Congress to put its full weight behind supporting struggling families. With record levels of poverty in Milwaukee and across the country, now is not the time to take money away from SNAP, the leading government safety net in the fight against domestic hunger.
Hunger Task Force thanks Senator Herb Kohl, Senator Russ Feingold, and Congresswoman Gwen Moore for their leadership and advocacy throughout the child nutrition reauthorization process. Their efforts in getting a final bill passed this year will help reduce hunger for thousands of children in the Badger state.
Action Needed: Thank Congress for passing a Child Nutrition Bill & urge them to find a way to fix the SNAP cuts before they go home here.