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What Happened and Where to Go From Here: Child Nutrition Reauthorization Update


Thanks to your advocacy, AAP has been a leading voice for children as members of Congress worked on legislation to reauthorize child nutrition programs.

Over the past two years, pediatricians like you have made their voices heard through expert congressional testimony, op-eds published in newspapers across the country, congressional briefings, and hundreds of meetings, calls, and emails to congressional staff.

Your message has been clear: successful, cost-effective federal nutrition programs like school meals, WIC, and summer feeding programs are critical in reducing child poverty and helping children access healthy foods. All of those efforts helped shaped the debate around child nutrition and resulted in a strong, bipartisan Senate Agriculture Committee bill supported by the AAP.

Unfortunately, as we informed you in the Federal Legislative Update, Congress was unable to pass a child nutrition reauthorization bill this year.

We wanted to provide you with a breakdown of what that means for the future of child nutrition programs and the Academy’s advocacy in the next Congress:

What happens now?

Programs like WIC, the school meals program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the summer feeding program will continue to operate so long as Congress continues to fund them.

But, AAP-championed provisions that were included in the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016 (S.3136) will not be enacted, such as a provision that gave states the option to eliminate recertification for WIC when children turn 1 and to extend eligibility for WIC to age 6 and a provision to protect the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which has allowed high poverty schools to provide breakfast and lunch to all students at no cost, reducing stigma and child hunger.

Where to go from here: Outlook for next year & AAP’s advocacy:

It is unclear at this point what the Trump Administration and 115th Congress will mean for child nutrition, but it is highly unlikely to result in another opportunity to reauthorize and strengthen these programs. However, we are anticipating changes to the current child nutrition programs through regulations or appropriations bills which could include rolling back nutrition standards or changes in eligibility for CEP.

The main reason Congress is unlikely to take up child nutrition reauthorization again next year is because work will begin on the next iteration of the Farm Bill, legislation that reauthorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP. The 2014 Farm Bill required over three years of debate in both chambers of Congress that ended with $8.6 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next 10 years.

As conversations about the next Farm Bill begin, AAP will be advocating for:

  • Maintaining the current structure of SNAP and opposing attempts to block grant or otherwise cap spending on SNAP.
  • Improving the benefits of the SNAP program, which are currently not enough to provide families with the resources to obtain an adequate, healthy diet throughout the month.
  • Reducing barriers to enrollment in SNAP, which includes improving linkages between Medicaid and SNAP.
  • Protecting the scientific integrity of nutrition standards and guidance as well as the inclusion of dietary guidelines for pregnant women and young children in the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as required by the 2014 Farm Bill.

This is where your advocacy will come in. Now more than ever, members of Congress will need to hear from pediatricians like you about the importance of sound nutrition on a child’s lifelong health and development. If you have an interest in advocating to protect SNAP and would like to be identified as a child nutrition champion for advocacy opportunities in the future, please email kids1st@aap.org. For now, the AAP’s Blueprint for Children is a great place to start for insights into the child nutrition agenda we will be working toward.

For a walk-through of AAP’s other lame duck priorities, including updates on whether they passed or failed and what comes next, please view this document.

As always, thank you for all of your advocacy efforts and the work you do for children every day. We look forward to working with you in the months ahead to ensure all children have the nutrition they need to thrive.