Help Pass the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act

Jennifer Lemmerman, Director of Government Affairs at Project Bread

Policy Work

About every 5 years, Congress has the chance to review and improve the federal child nutrition programs that impact millions of kids across the United States. The Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act (H.R. 8450) is ready for a vote in the House. Join us in advocating to our Massachusetts delegation to vote for this bill!

On July 27, 2022, the House Education and Labor Committee advanced the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act (H.R. 8450) to a vote in the House of Representatives. This bill will bolster child nutrition programs by increasing access to meals during the school year and when school is out of session. Legislative measures must still be taken to ensure it is enacted into law.

Child Nutrition Reauthorization gives Congress a chance to consider school meals as well as other nutrition programs and determine how they can be improved upon for our kids. The last time Child Nutrition Reauthorization took place was during the Obama administration in 2010. First Lady Michelle Obama spearheaded the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’s passage, which allowed funds for school nutrition, which improved food quality, introduced afterschool dinner meals and snacks for kids, and increased the number of low-income students that were eligible for free meals through direct certification. Reauthorizing federal child nutrition programs through the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act is an important way to fight child food insecurity. This action is well overdue.

The bill is still in the House until a floor vote is taken, after which it will be ready to progress to the Senate.

We need to act now to push this bill forward in order to maintain and strengthen school and out-of-school meal programs for years to come.

About the Bill

THE HEALTHY MEALS, HEALTHY KIDS ACT

Introduced by House Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (VA-03) and Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee Chair Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act includes the following provisions:

  • Expands the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which allows higher-need school districts across the country to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students.
  • Broadens direct certification with Medicaid, meaning more low-income students would be automatically eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. Massachusetts has participated in a related U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pilot program.

  • Increases the school lunch reimbursement rate by 10 cents and boosts commodity support (the USDA’s purchase of high-quality foods for states to use for school meals) for school breakfast, allowing these programs to be more financially viable for school districts. Both of these items were addressed by legislation introduced by House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (MA-02) this Congress through his Level Up Nutrition for Children in Every School (LUNCHES) Act and Healthy Breakfasts Help Kids Learn Act.

Elementary school students at breakfast
  • Creates a nationwide Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program, which would mitigate summer food insecurity for children who may otherwise have difficulty accessing summer meal sites.

  • Provides additional protections for families struggling with unpaid meal debt, which Massachusetts passed legislation to address in 2021.
  • Modernizes and expands access to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) by improving telehealth access for clients, expanding WIC eligibility to age 6, and extending certification periods to 2 years.

  • Improves the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) by allowing for an additional reimbursable meal or snack for children in all-day programs.

  • Implements tools to expand access to school kitchen infrastructure, farm-to-school programming, and scratch cooking.

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