News from the
Committee on Education and the Workforce
John Boehner, Chairman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 24, 2004

CONTACTS: Alexa Marrero or 
Dave Schnittger 
Telephone: (202) 225-4527

House Approves Castle Bill to Improve Integrity of Child Nutrition Programs, Ensure Access for Eligible Children

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today overwhelmingly voted to strengthen and reauthorize federal child nutrition programs, approving the bipartisan Child Nutrition Improvement & Integrity Act (H.R. 3873) by a vote of 419-5. The bill aims to improve the integrity of child nutrition programs and ensure more effective and efficient use of federal resources targeted to providing nutritional services for vulnerable children. H.R. 3873 was approved unanimously by the Education & the Workforce Committee on March 10, and has received broad bipartisan support.

“The Child Nutrition Improvement & Integrity Act makes a number of positive reforms focused on reaching three main goals: ensuring eligible children have access to services; promoting comprehensive solutions to the health and nutrition of children; and strengthening program integrity to ensure federal resources are being effectively leveraged to serve children who qualify,” said Education Reform Subcommittee Chairman Mike Castle (R-DE), author of the legislation.

“This legislation will extend the life of programs that help to provide nutritional services to America's most vulnerable children, while making some common-sense reforms,” said Education & the Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH). “It places a special emphasis on ensuring children are encouraged to make healthy choices through these taxpayer-funded programs, and on strengthening program integrity to ensure fewer funds are diverted away from the needy children these programs are meant to serve.”

The Child Nutrition Improvement & Integrity Act makes a number of reforms to ensure eligible children have access to services and address growing concerns that the federal school lunch program does not do enough to ensure free and reduced-price lunch benefits go to children who qualify. By strengthening and streamlining the certification process, the Child Nutrition Improvement & Integrity Act will ensure federal resources are being effectively leveraged to serve children in need.

The bill includes steps to improve access for vulnerable children, including: ensuring children whose parents are in the Armed Forces and living in privatized military housing continue receiving free or reduced-price meals at school if they meet eligibility requirements; helping parents by allowing them to submit a single application for multiple children; and reducing paperwork by allowing school lunch certifications to be valid for one full year, preventing situations in which schools are forced to repeatedly certify children within a single school year.

Recognizing a growing interest in promoting healthy nutritional choices and physical activity among children while also respecting the need to maintain local control for schools, communities and states, the Child Nutrition Improvement & Integrity Act strikes a balance through the establishment of local wellness policies. These local wellness policies, which would be written at the local level to reflect local needs, will promote nutrition education and increased physical activity while maintaining local control.

Included in the bill is a provision originally proposed by Rep. Ric Keller (R-FL) to reduce the stigma among children receiving free and reduced-price lunches by helping schools make technological improvements - such as automated "meal card" systems that keep students' financial status confidential - to increase the efficiency of program operations.

The bill also includes an initiative proposed by Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ron Kind (D-WI) to strengthen partnerships between local agriculture and schools to ensure fresh, local produce can go from farms to schools. In addition, the Child Nutrition Improvement & Integrity Act extends and allows for the expansion of the popular Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program through the discretionary appropriations process. The Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program currently provides free fresh and dried fruits and fresh vegetables to children in 25 schools in each of four states and one Indian Reservation.

The Child Nutrition Improvement & Integrity Act also reauthorizes the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The bill improves the certification process for WIC participation, strengthens infant formula benefits, and takes steps to ensure program integrity.

A summary of the Child Nutrition Improvement & Integrity Act can be viewed at http://edworkforce.house.gov/issues/108th/education/childnutrition/billsummary.htm.

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