Child nutrition reauthorization stalls out

Senate and House Republicans unable to agree on bicameral, bipartisan compromise negotiations for school lunch funding.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

December 7, 2016

2 Min Read
Child nutrition reauthorization stalls out

It already has been more than a year since the bipartisan Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act expired, and there was hope that an agreement could be reached on how to balance the more bipartisan approach championed in the Senate or the House’s version.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry held a hearing in May 2015 and unanimously approved the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity & Access Act of 2016 in January. The House had approved its measure earlier this spring as well. However, it looks like politics will prevent the bill from crossing the finish line before Congress adjourns for the year.


Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) said he is disappointed that the bipartisan, bicameral Children Nutrition Reauthorization negotiations have come to an end. Roberts blamed partisan politics.

“Though our committee passed a good, bipartisan bill – something no one said we could do – it wasn’t enough for some,” Roberts said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “I’m proud to say the agriculture committee conducted this reauthorization process in an open and transparent manner that listened to all stakeholders, including school children. We wrote a well-balanced bill that increased program integrity, flexibility, efficiency and effectiveness.”

Since that bill was passed by the committee, Roberts said members had been working to find an agreement with colleagues in the House and the minority members of the Senate who halted the bill’s progress.

“In the end, we were not able to reach a bipartisan, bicameral compromise,” Roberts said. “It is unfortunate that certain parochial interests and the desire for issues rather than solutions were put ahead of the well-being of vulnerable and at-risk populations and the need for reform.”

Roberts said it is a “lost opportunity to help children and struggling schools.” He added that these programs will be vulnerable without a reduction in the current error rates.

He said he remains committed to continuing to look for ways to increase integrity within the program and to provide flexibility to local schools and summer meal program operators.

The House’s version established a block grant pilot project in three states that will cut funds for school meal programs and nullify crucial federal mandates, including student eligibility rules for free and reduced-price meals and nutrition standards.

“Although the House bill provides a much appreciated and necessary increase to federal reimbursements for school breakfast, portions of the bill will cause irreparable harm to federal school meal programs,” School Nutrition Assn. president Jean Ronnei said.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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