From the Kitchen to the Congress: A Child Nutrition Reauthorization Blog

Where do we stand? Questions on Reauthorization...

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There are a lot of questions out there about child nutrition reauthorization - let's try to answer a few of them. Got one that is not answered here? Please post it below as a comment and we will answer that one too!

Q. When will it happen? What is the timeframe for child nutrition reauthorization?

A. Back in 2004 the child nutrition programs were reauthorized through September 30th, 2009. That means they will need to be reauthorized again before late September to prevent the programs from ending. That being said,  it is possible for Congress to pass a bill extending the current authorization for a month or a few months, or more, if they have not completed the new reauthorization bill. That has happened before - in fact in the programs were set to expire in September 2003, and the reauthorization bill at the time was not complete. Congress extended the existing legislation several times before completing the reauthorization process almost a year later on June 30, 2004. it remains to be seen what will happen in 2009 - however Congressional leaders and staff in both the Senate and the House have expressed a desire to reauthorize the programs on time before the deadline of September 30th this year. 

Q. How much "new" money has been set aside for the child nutrition reauthorization bill?

A. The process is still early and budget resolutions have yet to pass the House and Senate. The Child Nutrition Forum, a coalition led by SNA and the Food Research and Action Center, are advocating that $20 billion over 5 years be set aside as new funding for the federal child nutrition programs including the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, CACFP, SFSP, WIC and others.   

Q. What are SNA's top priorities for reauthorization this year?

A. SNA's top priorities for reauthorization are outlined in the Association's 2009 Legislative Issue Paper released earlier this week. They include increasing the per meal reimbursement by 35 cents for all meals in order to keep pace with rising costs and implementing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans; updating the Federal meal reimbursement rates semi-annually; expanding the “free” meal category from 130% of poverty to 185%, consistent with the WIC income eligibility guidelines; providing 10 cents in USDA commodities for each school breakfast served; granting the Secretary of Agriculture the statutory authority to regulate the sale of all foods and beverages on the school campus, consistent with the most recent edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans; and requiring the Department to implement a consistent, science-based national interpretation of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for all school meals reimbursed by USDA.

Q. What about other priorities like foodservice equipment and nutrition education?

A. During reauthorization years SNA also develops a Legislative Issue Paper Addendum that includes additional goals for the Association. This document is in development and will be released soon however you can still provide input on what other issues should be address. Log-in and post those ideas to the comment section below.

Q. Does SNA work with other groups to build support for these legislative goals?

A. Yes. SNA actively participates in the Child Nutrition Forum and the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity, two national coalitions of hundreds of organizations that address the health, nutrition, anti-hunger, education and labor issues relating to the child nutrition programs. State associations, school nutrition programs, and other groups are encouraged to sign-on to the Forum's Statement of Principles for reauthorization.

Q. How does the economic stimulus legislation relate to child nutrition reauthorization?

A. The economic recovery (stimulus) package is legislation independent of reauthorization. SNA and school nutrition professionals are advocating for increased school meal funding through the stimulus package to address the increased demand for access to healthy meals from families and children who have been affected by the economic downturn. Stimulus funding is also being sought to offset the increased price of food and other cost increases being felt by school nutrition programs.  

Q. How can I become involved in child nutrition reauthorization?

A. Your energy and voice are needed to make this reauthorization process a successful one. You can:

  • Come to the SNA Legislative Action Conference March 1 to 4, 2009, to learn the issues and talk to your Members of Congress;
  • Sign your organization or group on to the Child Nutrition Forum's Statement of Principles
  • Contact your Members of Congress about the issues and explain the challenges faced by school nutrition each day;
  • Spread the word to parents, staff, colleagues, friends and family - this is a group effort! Email this blog/web page to friends by clicking on the 'Email this' button to the right.

Didn't see your question answered here? Log in and post it to the comment section below along with your ideas for the Legislative Issue Paper Addendum.



SNA Releases Legislative Issue Paper

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SNA released its 2009 Legislative Issue Paper today.  Each year, SNA presents Congress with the critical issues facing school nutrition professionals nationwide.

The 2009 Legislative Issue Paper focuses on several important areas SNA would like addressed through Reauthorization:

  1. Increase the per meal reimbursement of all school meals by 35 cents for all meals to keep pace with rising costs and implementing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  2. Improve nutrition standards by requiring the Department of Agriculture to implement a consistent, science-based interpretation of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for all federally reimbursed school meals.

To view a complete copy of the 2009 Legislative Issue Paper, click here. Legislative Issue Paper talking points will be posted soon.

The Legislative Issue Paper is based on input from SNA members and is drafted by members of the Association’s Public Policy and Legislation Committee.  After final approval from the Board of Directors, the paper is used to guide SNA’s legislative actions.  As always, the goal of the Association is provide over 30 million children with safe, healthy school meals through the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.

Keep reading From the Kitchen to the Congress for the latest reauthorization news, including live blogging from the 2009 Legislative Action Conference. 


So, What is Reauthorization?

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January 26, 2009


Congress to take up Reauthorization in 2009

Welcome to the first installment of From the Kitchen to the Congress, a blog exclusively dedicated to discussing news and issues related to the 2009 Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Programs!  Turn to From the Kitchen to the Congress for up-to-date news and information throughout the entire reauthorization process.  This blog will also feature entries from guest bloggers – members of the SNA leadership who will explain the Association’s position on the legislation and offer opinions.  From the Kitchen to the Congress is also a place to ask questions and leave comments about the legislation and SNA’s positions.  We encourage you to engage in discussion with other SNA members and school nutrition professionals throughout the entire reauthorization process.

Before beginning a discussion about the critical issues facing the school nutrition programs, we bet there’s one question burning in your mind.

So, what exactly does “reauthorization” mean? 

In the rest of the entry, we’ll attempt to explain the basics of the reauthorization process and how it can affect the school nutrition programs.

Every five years, some of the federal child nutrition programs must undergo a process known as reauthorization in order to keep operating. The child nutrition programs were last reauthorized in 2004. The programs that are up for reauthorization include the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP), the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC), State Administrative Expenses (SAE), and the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI). These programs will expire on September 30, 2009 and must be reauthorized (or extended) before then.

Since the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) are permanent programs, they do not need to be reauthorized.  Instead, Reauthorization provides a chance for Congress to improve and update these programs.  During the last child nutrition reauthorization, several provisions were added to the school nutrition programs, including a requirement for local school wellness policies and the implementation of new food safety standards.

Whether reauthorizing an expiring program or amending a permanent one, the starting point is the same – Congress must write a new law.  The draft law is known as a bill and it is often written by members of a committee or, sometimes, by the Administration.  The Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry is responsible for drafting the Senate reauthorization bill.  In the House of Representatives, the child nutrition reauthorization bill falls under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Education and Labor. The House Agriculture Committee shares jurisdiction over several parts of the child nutrition programs as well. Both committees are bipartisan, or made up of Democrats and Republicans.

Prior to drafting the bill, the committee members gather ideas, opinions, research, and expert experience.  Some of this information is collected through published reports and studies, while some is collected through testimony at Congressional hearings or public meetings. This process has already begun for the 2009 reauthorization of the child nutrition programs.  By using this evidence, the committee members are able to create a bill that accurately reflects the needs of the community. Additionally, members of Congress both on the authorizing Committees and not, may introduce their own bills addressing one of the many parts of the child nutrition programs. These stand alone bills contribute to the dialogue and are sometimes incorporated into the reauthorization bills marked up by the authorizing Committees.  Several of these bills have already been introduced.

After the Committees are finished drafting the reauthorization bill, they are introduced in Congress and given a number.  During the last reauthorization, the House of Representatives introduced H.R. 3873 and the Senate introduced S. 2507.  These bills are referred to as companion bills. Both of these bills are ‘marked up’ or discussed and passed by the appropriate subcommittees and full committees, and are eventually sent to the Senate and House for votes. At this point a select group of members of the House and Senate form a conference committee to iron out differences between the bills.  Once a compromise is reached, the bill is then sent to the President to sign. Once the bill is signed by the President, it becomes a “statute” or law.  The programs reauthorized by the legislation will not expire for another five years. 

Stay tuned to From the Kitchen to the Congress for more information.  Future entries will outline the SNA’s priorities for Reauthorization 2009, as well as offer suggestions for ways you can become involved in this important process.