The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act (ICNEA), H.R. 5003, was introduced on Wednesday, April 20, by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education (of the House Education and the Workforce Committee). H.R. 5003 reauthorizes six child nutrition programs, including the school lunch and breakfast programs. The current authorization expired in September 2015.
NSBA supports H.R. 5003, which:
- increases stakeholder engagement — including school boards — in policy and implementation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
- provides additional flexibility for school districts for whole grain, sodium, a la carte foods and other requirements,
- authorizes a much needed reimbursement increase for the school breakfast program — two cents per meal at first and three cents beginning in the 2020-2021 school year,
- and prohibits the Secretary from establishing regulations or requirements not explicitly authorized by statute.
The bill also establishes additional program integrity requirements for school food authorities based on recommendations by the Government Accountability Office. For example, the bill increases the percentage of applications that school food authorities must verify for eligibility. However, there are a number of options to minimize the increase and the bill also requires the Department to create a mechanism to provide relief to districts based on undue administrative burden.
H.R. 5003 also increases the poverty threshold for districts to participate in community eligibility for school meals from 40 percent to 60 percent. The community eligibility provision allows schools and districts with high poverty rates to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students and eliminates the burden of collecting household applications to determine eligibility for school meals, relying instead on information from other means-tested programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. NSBA calls on Congress to carefully and compassionately consider the impact of raising the threshold on school districts and communities.
NSBA will continue to work with Congress on the reauthorization of child nutrition programs in order to ensure children can access both healthy nutrition and a world class education so vital to student success.