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5 school food bills introduced in anticipation of Child Nutrition Reauthorization

Here’s a look at some recent legislation brought forth ahead of Child Nutrition Reauthorization, which could occur later this year.
Students sitting at a table in the cafeteria eating lunch.
Photograph: Shutterstock

As the Senate Agriculture Committee begins hearings in preparation for Child Nutrition Reauthorization to occur later this year, lawmakers have introduced several pieces of legislation related to school nutrition.

Here’s a quick overview of what’s surfaced in the past couple of weeks. 

The Universal School Meals Program Act of 2021

Introduced by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar and several other lawmakers, the Universal School Meals Program Act of 2021 would provide all K-12 students with free breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack at school, regardless of income, while also increasing school meal reimbursement rates and reimbursing schools for all delinquent meal debt. 

In addition, the bill would eliminate the requirement that communities have at least 50% of students be eligible for free or reduced-priced meals to run a summer food service program site. Families of students would also receive $60 in Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) funds per child each month during the summer to use for food when school is not in session. 

The bill is similar to one introduced by Sanders and Omar in 2019

The CARE for Kids Act

This bill would provide automatic free school meal eligibility for children living with grandparents or other relatives due to the opioid crisis or COVID-19 pandemic. This bill has been reintroduced by Senator Bob Casey, who first introduced it in 2019

Summer Meals Act

The Summer Meals Act would reduce paperwork for meal program sponsors and give meal sites the option of serving three meals (or two meals and a snack) to children who attend evening enrichment programs during the school year and summer. The bill would also provide grantsto rural districts to help transport students to meal sites and allow areas in which at least 40% of students receive free or reduced-priced meals to host a summer meal program.

In addition, summer nutrition program providers would be allowed to serve children after emergencies or disasters and get reimbursed if the meals are taken off site.

The Summer Meals Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Lisa Murkowski.

Farm to School Act of 2021 

This bill has bipartisan support and would expand the USDA’s Farm to School Grant program through increasing its annual mandatory funding to $15 million, boosting the maximum grant award to $500,000 and giving priority to proposals that serve high-need schools.

Food and Nutrition Education in Schools Act

This bill was reintroduced by U.S. Senators Cory Booker and John Cornyn. If passed, it would provide schools with federal funding for projects, such as school gardens, that give nutrition education to students. Schools in neighborhoods with high rates of childhood diet-related illnesses and those in which 40% of students qualify for free or reduced-priced meals would be given priority for the funding. 

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