Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-296) Summary

March 24, 2011

On December 13, 2010, the President signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, reauthorizing numerous child nutrition programs until September 30, 2015. Included in this legislation are the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), the Summer Food Service Program, the Afterschool Meal Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed). This legislation provides $4.5 billion in new resources for those programs. On September 24, 2010, NCSL sent a letter to the Hill urging Congress to complete work on this “critical reauthorization.” The letter can be accessed here:

The offsets used to pay for this legislation were controversial, particularly ending the 13.6 percent benefit increase for SNAP recipients in November 2013, five months earlier than was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L.111-5).  The early end to the increased SNAP benefit reduced the SNAP benefits overall by $2.2 billion and those funds were used to provide new dollars for child nutrition. 


National School Lunch and National School Breakfast Programs 

The law increases, for the first time in 15 years, the School Lunch and School Breakfast per meal reimbursement by six cents. Schools must meet the new nutrition standards in order to receive the meal increase. A proposed rule for these nutrition standards was released on January 13, 2011 and can be found at:   The deadline for public comments is April 13, 2011.

P.L. 111-296 requires school districts to gradually increase paid lunch charges so that the revenue generated from paid lunches is equal to the amount reimbursed by the federal government at the federal free reimbursement level. 

P.L. 111-296 increases the amount of authority granted to the Secretary of Agriculture over these programs. In addition to establishing nutrition standards for the School Lunch and Breakfast programs, the Secretary has the authority to set nutrition standards for all food products sold on school grounds during the day. Additionally, the Secretary has been given increased authority over food safety and is required to develop guidelines for recalling or putting administrative holds on suspect food products. 

This law expands access to the School Lunch program in several ways as well as providing funds and authority for demonstration projects to test ways to increase access. There are simplifications to the direct certification process used in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. Under this legislation, foster children become categorically eligible for the School Lunch program, meaning the fact that they are part of the foster care system automatically makes the child eligible for school meals. Separate paper applications are no longer necessary to be part of the School Lunch and Breakfast programs. On January 31, 2011, the USDA released a “Memo to the States” outlining new guidelines regarding eligibility for these children. The foster children must be either be formally placed by a state child welfare agency or by a court. Additionally, foster children can be included in the household calculation for the families they are living with. However, having a foster child in the household does not automatically make the other children in the household eligible for the School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. To read the Memo, go here:

The legislation creates an additional way to eliminate individual family applications through community eligibility. Community eligibility in the School Lunch and Breakfast programs is accomplished through universal meal service in high poverty areas that have 40 percent or more of students directly certified for free school meals. Children in these schools do not need to complete paper applications to participate in the School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. Finally, the legislation instructs the Secretary of Agriculture to establish performance benchmarks for direct certification. P.L. 111-296 provides $4 million in bonuses per year for states that show improvement based on the benchmarks set by the Secretary.

Two separate demonstration projects are created to use data already collected either through the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data or the Medicaid program, with the goal of increasing cross-program collaboration. The demonstration project utilizing Community Survey data will last for three years, and three school districts can participate. In this demonstration project, three school districts will use the Community Survey data to establish reimbursement rates for universal meal service. The other demonstration project will allow selected states to test and implement the use of Medicaid data for direct certification purposes. The Medicaid demonstration project requires collaboration between school districts, the state Medicaid program, and SNAP (food stamps).

Finally, the law allows grants for expanding school breakfast programs, subject to available appropriations. The maximum amount awarded to state education agencies is either $2 million or the number of schools with at least 75 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch multiplied by $10,000. State education agencies are eligible to compete for these grants, which are distributed on a competitive basis. The state education agency then provides funds to sub-recipients, which are the qualifying schools or groups of qualifying schools.

Summer Food Service Program and the Afterschool Meal Program

There are limited, but not insignificant, changes to both the Summer Food Service Program and the Afterschool Meal Program in P.L. 111-296. The main changes to the Summer Food Service Program are making the eligibility rules for nonprofit and public sponsors the same. Prior to passage, private non-profit Summer Food sponsors were limited to 25 sites with no more than 300 children per site. Essentially, the law eliminates the rules limiting the number of sites private non-profit summer meal program sponsors can operate. Finally, P.L. 111-296 authorizes $10 million in grants to establish and maintain summer food programs.

With regard to the Afterschool Meal Program, the law expands the program to all 50 states through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Previously, the Afterschool Meal Program only operated in thirteen states: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

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

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) was established in 1974 to provide low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children with improved access to health care, nutritious foods, and nutritional education in order to prevent nutrition-related health problems during pregnancy, infancy, and early childhood. P.L.111-296 reauthorizes the WIC program and makes several changes. The legislation grants WIC agencies the option to certify children for up to one year, which is an increase from the six-month certification prior to passage of the bill. Additionally, the law mandates that by 2020, WIC benefits must be distributed through an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system, which is how SNAP benefits are distributed. The law allows WIC agencies to share WIC nutrition education materials with the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) institutions. Finally, P.L.111-296 requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct a review of food items provided under the WIC program every ten years and gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to disallow food products for use in the WIC program based on whether the product’s ingredients yield a benefit relative to its cost.

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) was established to provide nutritious meals and snacks to eligible children who are enrolled at participating child care centers and family child care homes, afterschool programs, and homeless shelters. P.L.111-296 establishes nutrition requirements similar to the requirements under the school lunch program for meals served by CACFP providers. Additionally, $10 million is provided to the USDA to support increased physical activity and limited television/electronic media time in child care centers and homes. The legislation directs the USDA in consultation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a national study assessing the nutritional quality of foods served and the opportunities for physical activities for children in both child care centers and family day care homes. USDA and HHS are also required to cooperate to encourage state childcare agencies to include nutrition and child wellness standards in state child care licensing rules.  Finally, there is an additional $10 million in funding to USDA to conduct training, provide technical assistance, and distribute educational materials to child care providers to help them serve healthier food.


One funding change of particular interest to state policy makers is in the nutrition education component of the SNAP program. This law replaces the current practice of the federal government matching state funds for approved nutrition education activities with an open-ended funding stream with a capped $375 million annual grant, which will be adjusted for inflation beginning FY 2012. States will no longer have to provide matching funds to receive SNAP-Ed funds. For fiscal years 2011-2013, states will receive a two-year grant based on their SNAP-Ed expenditures in 2009. The two year grant means states must structure their budgets to reflect the expenditures that are planned for the current year and states can carryover unused funds from one year to the next. Beginning in fiscal year 2014, states will receive 90 percent of what they received in 2009 and 10 percent of the funds will go to states based on of the number of individuals participating in SNAP during the preceding twelve-month period ending January 31, 2013. Every year, the allocation will shift by ten percentage points so that by 2018, the division will be 50 percent guaranteed, 50 percent based on SNAP participation from the prior calendar year. If a state does not use all the funds allocated by the USDA for SNAP-Ed, the Secretary of Agriculture will re-allocate unused funds to other states and it will affect the allocation of funds going forward. To find the amount your state is allocated in 2011, go here:


One of the major obstacles P.L. 111-296 faced in the Congress was the issue of paying for the increased investments through offsets. After the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act at the beginning of the 111th Congress, offsets to cover new spending were often required to break filibusters of legislation in the Senate. As noted previously, one of the offsets used to fund the additional funding was ending the SNAP (food stamp) increase enacted early in the Recovery Act. Many Congressional House Members perceived utilizing the SNAP money as counterproductive to the goal of ending hunger in America. Eventually, the Administration provided an assurance that the SNAP benefits would be restored and that assurance allowed passage in the House of Representatives.  On February 14, 2011, President Obama proposed reinstating the money cut from SNAP that was used to offset the cost of the law in his FY 2012 budget proposal. Presently, it is unclear whether Congress will prioritize reinstating the SNAP funds in the FY 2012 budget process.

This Act provides the Secretary of Agriculture with additional authority over these programs. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids leaves much of its implementation up to the regulations, which will be issued by Secretary of the Department of Agriculture. Many regulations are statutorily required within the six months of enactment. NCSL will continue to monitor P.L. 111-296 as implementation proceeds and regulations are promulgated.

For any questions or clarifications, please do not hesitate to contact either Sheri Steisel ( or Emily Wengrovius ( or call NCSL’s Washington DC office at 202-624-5400.