What’s at Stake?
In almost every county in the United States, children experience food insecurity at higher rates than the general population. Feeding America estimates that 13 million children (1 in 6 children) may experience food insecurity in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before and during the pandemic, child nutrition programs have played a critical role in safeguarding millions of children against hunger—but the programs are only as effective as their ability to reach children in need. To ensure every child has access to the meals they need to grow, learn, and thrive during our nation’s recovery and beyond, our lawmakers must pass Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation that strengthens the Child Nutrition Programs, especially during out-of-school times when children are hard to reach.
CNR is the process Congress uses to update the Child Nutrition programs, including the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Summer and Afterschool Nutrition Programs, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
Through CNR, Congress has a pathway to strengthen the Child Nutrition Programs —helping to improve the health, nutrition, and well-being of millions of children across the country. Congress should improve program access and support participation by underserved children, ensure nutrition quality, and simplify program administration and operation.
What’s Feeding America Doing?
Feeding America is fighting to:
- Strengthen summer feeding sites
- Streamline regulations for community-based providers so they can feed children year-round.
- Align the area eligibility requirement for summer feeding and educational programs to allow more learning programs to offer meals in the summer.
- Allow alternate strategies to help feed children when schools are closed
- Provide a Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) grocery card to families with children eligible for free and reduced-price school meals during the summer months and when schools are closed to supplement their household food budgets.
- Allow kids to consume meals off-site, which would enable communities to adopt innovative program models to reach children who lack access to a summer feeding site.
- Strengthen access to school meal programs and WIC
- Strengthen access to and quality of school meals to support reducing child hunger, improving nutrition and health, and supporting learning.
- Increase participation of eligible families in WIC to connect more pregnant and postpartum mothers and young children who are low income with health and social service referrals and culturally appropriate, nutritious foods that contribute to their overall health and well-being.
- CNR generally occurs every 5 years, but Congress has not passed CNR legislation since 2010—leaving programs without significant improvements.
- While the summer meal programs are intended to provide free meals and snacks to eligible children during the summer months, in 2019, before the pandemic, fewer than 17 percent of eligible children received a meal through a summer feeding program.
- Nationwide, fewer than 4 million children received food assistance through a summer feeding program in the summer of 2019, compared to nearly 22 million children who receive lunch assistance during the school year, before the pandemic upended operations and lives.