Child Nutrition Reauthorization

Summary

Academy Resources

Academy Recommendations for Child Nutrition Reauthorization

Congress has an opportunity in 2021 to build upon the success of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to strengthen and expand the reach of these child nutrition programs that provide an integrated system of nutrition support and are a critical line of defense against food insecurity for millions of America's children. As outlined in this chart, the Academy's recommendations support alignment of nutrition standards with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Academy will take a leadership role in moving forward this important legislation with the recommendations highlighted in the chart.

Background

Generally, every five years the United States Congress reauthorizes the existing child nutrition programs including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, Summer Food Service Program, Special Milk Program, Farm to School Grant Program, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. These child nutrition programs provide a critical system of nutrition support for millions of America's children when they are at school or other supervised child care settings, and WIC supports infants, very young children and their low-income mothers during pregnancy.

In fiscal year 2021, CACFP provided services for 4.1 million children in 139,000 child care homes and centers and 107,800 adults in 2,400 adult day care centers nationwide. The largest of the programs, NSLP and SBP, subsidized meals for nearly 30 million children with an average of 21 million average daily lunches served and 11.5 million average daily breakfasts served in 88,300 schools. During the 2020-2021 School year, the Farm to School Grant Program has supported 159 grants, serving 7,610 schools and more than 2.5 million students. WIC served 6.2 million recipients per month in FY2020. Due to delays in reporting because of the pandemic, these numbers may change.

Unfortunately, the diets of most children continue to fall far short of recommendations for good health despite the widespread efforts of the child nutrition programs. In 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 10.7 million (14.6%) of children lived in a food insecure household. Due to the detrimental economic impacts of the pandemic, Feeding America predicts that the 2021 child food insecurity rate will rise to 17.9%, affecting an additional 2.3 million children. At the same time, obesity rates that began rising in the 1990s have led to one in five children in the U.S. being overweight or obese. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Care Network published a study that revealed that overall obesity prevalence increased from 13.7% in the pre-pandemic period (June to December 2019) to 15.4% (June to December 2020) in the pandemic period.

Poor diet and childhood obesity are resulting in the early onset of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and hypertension; these are diseases that historically appeared later in life but are now presenting in childhood and adolescence. Early onset of such diseases adds a strain to our health system as children carry these conditions into adulthood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that obesity costs the U.S. $147 billion annually in 2008 dollars.

Child Nutrition Programs provide an infrastructure that can be mobilized to improve children's diets and health on a national scale while also improving school attendance, test scores and educational attainment. There is evidence of social and economic benefits of the Child Nutrition Programs that extend into local communities. These include improvements in the diet of other family members, healthier options in the grocery store, economic stimulus to communities, stable customers for American agriculture, job creation and poverty reduction.

Ideally, the U.S. Congress reauthorizes existing child nutrition programs every five years. The last reauthorization, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, was passed in 2010. Consequently, these programs have not been updated in a decade. Although the current law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-296), expired on September 30, 2015, the programs continue to operate.

Contact the Academy's Senior Director of Legislative and Government Affairs Liz Campbell at with any questions or to receive more information on the Academy's CNR recommendations.