WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Hunger, Nutrition, and Family Farms, issued the following statement today after President Barack Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
“School nutrition programs ensure hungry children have access to dependable, nutritious meals. By streamlining the eligibility process and ensuring more healthful choices in school, we’ll be able to give children the nutrition they need to succeed in school,” Brown said. “Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I visited food banks in Ohio and it was more apparent than ever that many families are having trouble making ends meet. This important law helps fill the gaps by ensuring that no child goes hungry at school. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will help get our children started early with good eating habits so that they can live long and healthy lives.”
Brown is a leading voice in the U.S. Congress for eradicating hunger and improving childhood nutrition. As Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Hunger, Nutrition, and Family Farms, he wrote the Hunger-Free Schools Act, which would help reduce paperwork and enroll already eligible students in childhood nutrition programs through direct certification, was the centerpiece of the anti-hunger component of the bill passed by both the House and the Senate. Brown’s bill would help more families enroll in the National School Lunch Program, one of the most important programs aimed at combating childhood hunger. Nearly 20 million children participated in the free or reduced price lunch program in the 2009 school year.
A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, however, found that in 23 states, up to 20 percent of eligible children are not getting enrolled. For these students and for many school administrators, the often complicated and redundant application process deters potential enrollment.
Brown's legislation would utilize direct certification—a streamlined approach to determining family eligibility—to enroll more students in nutrition programs. This approach relies on existing data and is utilized to promote broader participation in the national school lunch program. Brown's bill would help automatically enroll children for a free or reduced price lunch if their families have already filled out paperwork for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), or Medicaid.
During Agriculture Committee consideration of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Brown successfully passed two bipartisan amendments to the legislation. One of those amendments, a bipartisan piece of legislation offered with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), ensures greater access to summer feeding programs for children. Another amendment, offered with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), authorizes a pilot program to provide affordable organic choices in school feeding programs. This program is a crucial first step in proving the viability and value of organic foods in the over 30 million school lunches served each day.
In August, Brown joined community leaders and anti-hunger advocates in Youngstown to discuss legislative efforts aimed to combat childhood hunger and promote access to nutritious foods in Ohio schools and underserved communities.