Improve child nutrition programs without delay, AFSCME tells Congress

The White House’s recent announcement that it will hold the first conference on hunger, nutrition and health in more than half a century on Sept. 28 shines a light on another glaring issue – Congress has failed to update federal child nutrition programs in a decade.

Every five years, Congress has the opportunity to improve and strengthen the federal government’s child nutrition and school meal programs. But five years ago, Congress dropped the ball. AFSCME believes this can’t happen again with inflation at an all-time high, spikes in food prices and child poverty on the rise again.

That’s why our union is pushing Congress to modernize and increase funding for Child and Adult Care Food Program, which provides meals to millions of children during school hours, after school and in child care programs, and also to pregnant women and young children.

We are urging Congress to update the program by adopting the provisions of S. 1270, The Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act, sponsored by Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, once lawmakers return from their summer recess after Labor Day.

Casey’s bill would ensure that babies and children in child care facilities receive healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. A summary of the bill’s main provisions is available here.

We also support the House’s version of the bill, H.R. 8450, and related child care provisions championed by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state.

In a letter to the House of Representatives in July, AFSCME said H.R. 8450 would upgrade a range of key nutrition programs – from those that support pregnant women and infants, babies and young children in child care and Head Start, and school-aged children.

The House bill seeks to increase funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), improve access to telehealth, expand federal support for breastfeeding, and expand the Summer Food Service Program to more low- and middle-income neighborhoods. It would also upgrade reimbursement rates for child care providers – many of whom are members of our union.

In the past 10 years since Congress last updated federal nutrition programs, “our country has experienced an explosion in food insecurity and inequities impacting low-income children and children of color,” AFSCME said in the letter. “It is essential that this bill move forward to ensure that these essential nutritional services reach the people who need them.”