Summary of The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010

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Group of children

Based on the discussion draft of Child Nutrition Reauthorization language offered by Senator Lincoln

On March 24, 2010, the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee reported legislation out of committee that reauthorizes federal child nutrition programs through 2015. Major provisions are described below.

 

School Lunch and School Breakfast

Access

The bill contains new paperless options for universal meal service:

  • Schools in high poverty areas can offer free meals to all students without collecting paper applications. Reimbursement levels will be based on the level of direct certification in each school building.
  • A new demonstration program will use census data to determine eligibility rates in school districts with high concentrations of low-income children.

The bill contains a number of provisions to improve direct certification. The bill also establishes a demonstration project to test and  use Medicaid for direct certification, and makes foster children automatically eligible for free meals.

The bill sets performance benchmarks for direct certification as follows:

  • In 2011, 80% of those eligible are to be directly certified.
  • In 2012, 90% of those eligible are to be directly certified.
  • In 2013, 95% of those eligible are to be directly certified.

If states do not meet this standard, they must submit a continuous improvement plan to USDA. Incentive bonuses are provided for 15 states that show improvement in their levels of direct certification or that have outstanding performance in direct certification. For each of 2011, 2012, and 2013, $2 million is provided for the former category and $2 million is provided for the latter category.

Quality of School Food

The secretary will update National School Lunch and School Breakfast nutrition standards and regulations to comply with recommendations made by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences within 18 months of the passage of the act. The secretary will then set a date for all school food authorities participating in School Lunch and School Breakfast to be in compliance. The secretary is granted authority to require that local food services comply with nutritional requirements through reasonable audits and supervisory assistance reviews every three years or in a time frame prescribed by the secretary.

The bill establishes a performance-based increase in the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches (six cents per meal) that would help states meet the new meal standards for healthier school meals. States would receive this funding for each meal served that is certified by the state to be in compliance. Funding is provided for activities related to training, technical assistance and oversight activities, up to $50 million for states, and $3 million for federal administrative costs.

The bill requires opportunities for public input and transparency in local school wellness policies, requires that the policies have implementation plans, and mandates that schools issue periodic reports on progress made toward achieving wellness objectives. The bill also allows only low-fat milk to be served and specifies that water must be available free of charge during the meal service.

At USDA, model  specifications would be developed for USDA commodity foods used in school meals. The bill also provides $5 million over five years in mandatory funding to pilot innovative farm-to-school programs and an additional $10 million for an organic food pilot program with preference given to school districts in high-poverty areas.

The bill mandates the development of guidelines for recalling or putting administrative holds on suspect food products. No later than one year after enactment, the secretary is required to revise the procedures of the Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure that schools are included in effectiveness checks.

The bill directs the secretary of Agriculture to establish national nutrition standards for all foods sold on school campuses throughout the school day. Regulations on this requirement would be due not later than one year after enactment.

The bill requires schools to gradually increase their “paid” meal charges to families until the revenue per meal matches the federal reimbursement levels for the free meal category. It also directs the secretary of Agriculture to provide guidance on allowable charges to school food service accounts.

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

The Afterschool Meal program (through the CACFP) is expanded to all 50 states. Currently the program is only available in 13 states (Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin).   

The bill revises the nutrition standards for meals, snacks and beverages served through CACFP to make them consistent with the most recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines. There are provisions related to education, educational materials, training and technical assistance for child care providers. The bill provides $10 million to USDA for training, technical assistance and materials development. The bill requires interagency coordination focused on strengthening the role of child care licensing in supporting good nutrition, health and wellness and maximizing the value of CACFP.

Program Access

The bill eliminates the block claim requirement, allows permanent operating agreements and renewable applications and allows the use of high school and middle school free and reduced price lunch participation levels to determine Tier 1 area eligibility for family child care homes. The bill also establishes a simplified method of determining sponsor monthly administrative funding by requiring only the number of homes multiplied by the administrative reimbursement rates calculation to determine the sponsors’ administrative reimbursements. The bill permits sponsoring organizations to carry over a maximum of 10 percent of administrative funds into the following fiscal year.  

Auditing

The bill allows USDA to increase the state audit funds made available to any state agency from 1.5 percent to up to a total of 2 percent if the agency can effectively use the funds to improve program management. State agencies are required to review institutions at least once every three years, and conduct more frequent reviews of larger sponsors, sponsors that are part of multi-purpose organizations, and sponsors identified or at-risk of having serious management problems. Sponsors must continue to vary the timing of unannounced reviews in a manner that makes the reviews unpredictable to the sponsored facilities.

Summer Food

The bill allocates $20 million for the development of a competitive grant program for summer food providers. The grants will be made available to state agencies to provide technical assistance, assistance with site improvement costs, and other innovative activities that improve and encourage the retention of summer food service providers.

Additional program changes, simplification and improvement measures include:

  • Requiring school food authorities to coordinate with summer food sponsors on developing and distributing summer food outreach materials;
  • Eliminating the requirement that private, nonprofit summer food sponsors serve no more than 25 sites with no more than 300 children at any of the sites unless they have a waiver;
  • Extending the California year-round Summer Food pilot through 2015.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

  • Allows state WIC agencies the option to certify children for up to one year (currently six months).
  • Promotes breastfeeding by expanding the collection of WIC breastfeeding data, creating performance bonuses for 15 state agencies with high rates of breastfeeding, and allowing contingency reserve funds to be used to purchase breast pumps.
  • Mandates WIC electronic benefit (EBT) use nationwide by Oct. 1, 2020, with exemptions for unusual technological barriers or operational costs. The bill contains new cost-sharing provisions for state agencies and retailers and sets standards, as well as providing $1 billion a year for USDA to develop a national universal product code data base.
  • Allows state WIC agencies to permit local WIC agencies to share WIC nutrition education materials at no cost.
  • Grants USDA the authority to disallow food products from the WIC food program based on the efficacy of added ingredients and retail costs.

Funding: the draft legislation provides $14 million for WIC infrastructure and special projects (breastfeeding promotion), $30 million to support WIC management information systems, and $90 million for breastfeeding counselors, performance bonuses and other special nutrition. WIC research funding is increased from $5 million to $15 million.

Other Provisions

Important to note: The bill requires the federal-state agreement to make clear the expectation that federal funds provided to operate the child nutrition programs be totally used for that purpose and that these funds should be excluded from state budget restrictions or limitations, including hiring freezes, work furloughs and travel restrictions.

The bill provides $40 million for research into causes and consequences of hunger, and to develop demonstration projects to end childhood hunger, including enhancing SNAP benefits, enhancing or providing innovative delivery models in school meals, afterschool snacks, and CACFP, and targeting federal, state, and local assistance such as housing assistance or family preservation services to households experiencing hunger or food insecurity. At least one demonstration project must be carried out on an Indian Reservation where the prevalence of diabetes exceeds 15 percent. It also directs USDA, working with the Department of Health and Human Services, to establish a research, demonstration and technical assistance program to promote healthy eating and reduce obesity, especially among children, by applying the principles of behavioral economics research in schools, child care programs and other settings.

Nutrition education is to be provided through a Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Program that would be funded at $375 million in FFY 2011, adjusted for inflation. It would not require a state share, but this represents a cap on what had been an entitlement funding.

The bill establishes a review by the secretary (in conjunction with states and participating Local Education Authorities to examine current policies and practices extending credit to children to pay the cost to the children of reimbursable meals and to study the feasibility of establishing national standards in this area.

As a “pay for” for improvements to the child nutrition programs, the bill would reduce funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives (EQIP) program.