We will continue to accept sign-ons to the letter but we encourage you to sign on your organization on as soon as possible in advance of the committee's "markup" of the bill.
Dear Chairman Kline, Ranking Member Scott, Subcommittee Chairman Rokita, and Subcommittee Ranking Member Fudge:
The undersigned organizations write to express our opposition to the “Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016” (H.R. 5003). The bill contains numerous provisions that would roll back years of progress. Large numbers of low-income children would no longer be able to access the nutritious meals they need for their health and learning, and the meals children still obtain would be less healthy.
The bill would significantly weaken the Community Eligibility Provision, which is a successful federal option in its second year of nationwide implementation that reduces administrative burden and increases school lunch and breakfast access in high-poverty schools. The bill proposes to reduce substantially the number of high-poverty schools that are eligible to implement community eligibility. It would end the program for approximately 7,000 of the 18,000 schools currently participating, and 11,000 additional high-poverty schools not yet participating but eligible under current law, would lose the option to implement community eligibility in future years.
Additionally, the bill dramatically increases school meal application verification requirements in ways that inevitably would cause eligible students to lose access to free or reduced-price school meals. Under the proposal, the number of household applications to be verified would increase significantly, creating unnecessary paperwork burdens for schools and families. A disproportionate number of the most vulnerable families, such as those who are homeless, migrant, immigrant or have limited English proficiency, would be particularly likely to fall through the cracks in the process and lose access to school meals even though they are eligible.
The bill would weaken evidence-based school nutrition standards for meals, as well as for snacks and beverages (Smart Snacks). Weakening the standards would harm children’s health. Nearly all participating school districts (98.5 percent) are meeting the updated school lunch nutrition standards, providing mostly whole grains, moderate salt, more fruits and vegetables, and healthier snacks and beverages. Harvard University researchers recently concluded that the improvements in nutrition standards for school meals, snacks, and beverages are “one of the most important national obesity prevention policy achievements in recent decades.” These improvements are estimated to prevent more than two million cases of childhood obesity and save up to $792 million in health-care related costs over 10 years.
The bill also fails to meet the needs of children in child care and out-of-school time settings and inadequately invests in summer food and child care nutrition. For children in child care, the bill does not reflect the important provision included in the Senate child nutrition bill that allows child care centers and homes the option of serving an additional snack to children in care for long hours. The bill also does not contain any of the Senate provisions in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program to extend certification of infants to two years and extend enrollment for children until their sixth birthday. Instead the bill speeds up the timeline for a study on adjunctive eligibility, weakens cost-saving measures, and continues to undermine the science-based WIC food packages.
We oppose the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act in its current form as it would reduce access to child nutrition programs, increase food insecurity among children, and harm children’s nutrition and health, contributing to the very problems that the programs are designed to address and we urge the Congress to reconsider these provisions.