Still no action from Congress on Child Nutrition reauthorization

Tuesday night Congress passed an omnibus spending package that spans 2,009 pages, 12 appropriation bills, $1.1 trillion in allocated funds and only a passing mention of school lunch program reauthorization.

The package does not include the Senate Agriculture Committee’s recommendation that the program for providing subsidized lunches to underprivileged children be reauthorized for five years at a cost of $4.5 billion, a measure that had been expected, according to Politico. However, the text did uphold language from a 2014 omnibus that lessened whole grain regulations in federally funded lunch programs struggling to meet standards and halted further tightening of sodium limitations “until the latest scientific research establishes the reduction is beneficial for children.”

Some FSDs have been losing patience with the saga of reauthorization since the first deadline passed in September. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts says Congress will have to address the matter in the next few months.

“We've got about three big issues that are coming up, CFTC reauthorization, child nutrition and then what we call biotech," the Kansas Republican told Politico. "That's going to have to be dealt with in January or early February. We're just going to have to hit it, boom, boom, boom.”

The spending bill was pushed through after an emergency five-day funding measure was hammered through Congress to prevent a government shutdown. The School Nutrition Association appreciates Congress’ recognition of the difficulties school nutrition professionals face, SNA spokesperson Diane Pratt-Heavner says. “By maintaining menu planning flexibility in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill, Congress is helping schools manage some of the challenges they have encountered under updated regulations,” she says. “SNA looks forward to Congress addressing these and other issues in the coming year during Child Nutrition Reauthorization.” 

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