School nutrition advocates are pushing back against a Republican proposal to test providing block grants to school meal programs, saying school budgets could lose millions.
The pilot program is part of the House child nutrition reauthorization bill and would be tested in three states, yet to be determined, if it becomes law.
But critics, including the School Nutrition Association (SNA), backed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Food Research & Action Center, say participating schools would lose all paid-meal reimbursements and 6-cent-per-lunch reimbursements collected by meal programs certified as meeting federal nutrition standards.
The SNA estimated the annual losses in federal reimbursements on Wednesday. According to the group, California could lose as much as $78 million, Texas could lose $72 million and Georgia stands to lose $30 million.
“North Carolina's legislature, to date, has rejected requests to include funds in the annual State budget to help cover the shortfall school nutrition programs are already experiencing,” Lynn Harvey, chief of School Nutrition Services for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, said in a statement. “Under the proposed block grant, we would lose another $24 million annually.”
Republicans claim the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016, which passed through committee last month, gives schools flexibility to find ways to help children and families in need. Democrats counter that it gives Republicans a foothold to eviscerate school nutrition programs altogether.
“We have repeatedly seen that establishing block grants only erodes the value of programs over time, and cuts to the child nutrition programs will have a real impact on children’s health and education,” said Rep. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottPandemic leads to sharp drop in school enrollment Democratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse Watchdog: 7 members of Congress allegedly failed to disclose stock trades MORE (D-Va.) in a statement.
“Just as Congress recognized 60 years ago, feeding hungry children is not only a moral imperative, but also a federal responsibility, vital to the health and security of our nation," he added. "Our work to reauthorize our child nutrition programs presents a great opportunity to continue to change the way children eat, to expand their access to nutritious meals, and to end the child hunger crisis in our country.”