Guest Post by Sophie Milam
This year, Congress is considering legislation that would strengthen several nutrition programs critical to the well-being of our nation’s children. With one in four children struggling with hunger and one in three obese or overweight, reauthorizing the nation’s two cornerstone child nutrition laws – the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 and the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act – collectively known as Child Nutrition Reauthorization could not come at a more critical time.
Child nutrition programs offer the healthiest and most nourishing meals that many children receive each day. Programs like school meals, WIC, and summer and afterschool feeding programs ensure that children have access to nutritious food.
Child nutrition programs also protect our most vulnerable children from hunger. For many low-income children, these programs provide their only fully-balanced meals. For some, they provide their only meals. A recent report by Feeding America shows that child hunger increased in almost every state in 2008, underscoring the importance of completing a strong child nutrition bill this year.
Reauthorization of the child nutrition laws this year provides an opportunity to make real strides against child hunger and childhood obesity by improving children’s access to these important programs. Far too many eligible children are not being reached by our current child nutrition programs. As a result, millions of children are without access to nourishing food, especially afterschool, over the summer, and during weekends.
Congress is poised to make progress against child hunger and childhood obesity, but we are facing a critical moment. Both the House and Senate have approved a bill in committee. However, with August recess looming, Congress is running out of legislative calendar days to bring the bill to the floor and complete the reauthorization before it expires September 30. If the child nutrition laws are not reauthorized this summer, millions of children will miss out on improved access to the nutritious food they need to learn and grow.
Advocates are working to keep up the pressure on Congress and demonstrate national support for completing a strong child nutrition bill this year. This week, dozens of national organizations will take part in a joint Nationwide Call-In Days. For more information on the call-in days and what you can do, visit Feeding America’s Hunger Action Center.
Sophie Milam is policy counsel for Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief organization.