NEA provided our principles for strengthening child nutrition programs to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry in connection with the committee hearing last week on Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR).
CNR is supposed to occur every five years, but has not happened since 2010, when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was signed into law. That law remains in force although it expired in September 2015. Most importantly, we believe healthy school meals should be provided to all students, at no cost to them, a step that would improve their health and classroom performance; eliminate the stigma of student meal debt; and relieve schools of cumbersome paperwork. Our other principles include:
- Providing ongoing professional development and training for school food service staff, at no cost to the employees, during regular, paid working hours. (These improvements are included in the Improving Training for School Food Service Workers Act.)
- Increasing access to “out-of-school-time” programs that provide meals and snacks at schools and other sites when children are not in school, such as summer.
- Directing communications about school meal debts directly to parents and guardians to ensure students are not stigmatized.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress created and expanded programs to address hunger in our nation. Members can build on those efforts during Child Nutrition Reauthorization. The goal should not be to return to pre-pandemic conditions, but to make sure all children have access to healthy, nutritious meals that prepare them for learning.
Email your senators and representative and ask them to support Child Nutrition Reauthorization that expands access to healthy, nutritious school meals.