Child Nutrition Reauthorization: Improving Access to Healthy Meals for America’s Children

Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) is a process that occurs every five years in which Congress evaluates and updates the federal child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. These programs provide free or low-cost nutritious meals to over 30 million children each school day. CNR offers an opportunity for Congress to make improvements to the programs and address the challenges that schools and families face in providing nutritious meals to children. However, Congress has not passed CNR legislation since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010.

Children Enjoying Meal
Children Enjoying Healthy Meal In A Cafeteria (Photo: istockphoto)

One of the key goals of CNR is to improve program access. This can include increasing outreach to families to ensure they are aware of their eligibility for the programs, expanding program participation in areas where child hunger is high, and streamlining program administration to make it easier for schools to participate.

Another goal of CNR is to support participation by underserved children, including those from low-income families, children with disabilities, and children in rural communities. This can include expanding the programs to reach more children in these populations, as well as improving the accessibility of meals for children with disabilities.

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CNR also aims to ensure nutrition quality by updating the meal standards to reflect the latest scientific evidence and to ensure that the meals provided to children are healthy and well-balanced. This includes updates to the nutrition standards for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and reduced-fat dairy products, as well as new standards for sodium and sugar.

Finally, CNR aims to simplify program administration and operation by reducing the burden on schools and families and making it easier for schools to participate in the programs. This can include streamlining the meal application process, reducing paperwork, and providing technical assistance to schools and families to help them understand the programs and their responsibilities.

Child hunger remains a significant problem in the United States, with millions of children facing food insecurity daily. CNR provides a critical opportunity to address this problem by improving access to nutritious meals for children, supporting participation by underserved children, ensuring nutrition quality, and simplifying program administration and operation. By working together, Congress and the public can help ensure that all children have the healthy, nutritious meals they need to thrive.

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