Lobbyists: Dem victory could revive child nutrition bill
The Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives could mean that reauthorization of child nutrition programs could be revived in the next Congress, nutrition lobbyists have told The Hagstrom Report.
The key factor is that the leadership of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the programs, will change.
The child nutrition programs, which include school meals, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children and other smaller feeding and research programs, were last authorized under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which passed in the lame-duck session of the 2010 Congress when the Democrats were still in charge.
That bill gave the Agriculture Department authority to modernize the food offerings in the school meals programs to emphasize healthier foods and it included a small increase in federal payments to the schools. Child nutrition bills are written on a five-year cycle, and the bill expired in 2015.
That year the Senate Agriculture Committee, which has jurisdiction over child nutrition, agreed to a bipartisan bill on reauthorizing the programs, but the House insisted on a provision on a school lunch block grant experiment that advocates and Democrats vigorously opposed.
No bill was passed and the programs have continued through appropriations bills. Both school lunch and WIC have permanent authorization, but the five-year bills are used to update the programs and to include research and other smaller programs.
“With the D majority it is likely that the issue of block granting these programs is likely dead should reauthorization come up in the 116th Congress,” one nutrition lobbyist said.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has mentioned on several occasions that the committee worked hard in a bipartisan fashion to come up with a bill, and lamented that it never became law.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., has been chairman of the House Education & the Workforce Committee and Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., has been chairman of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee.
Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott, D-Va. is the ranking Democrat on the committee. The ranking member on the subcommittee is Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., who will not be returning because he has been elected governor of Colorado.
The next in line on the subcommittee is Rep. Raúl Grijalva, Arizona, D-Va., and Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, ranks just below Grijalva on the subcommittee.
When a new Congress convenes, it’s never clear that members of House committees will stay on those committees or that ranking members will take leadership positions.
Another unknown is whether the Democrats keep the same committee name and structure.
From 2007 through 2010, it was called the House Education and Labor Committee and the chairman was Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who ushered through the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.
In 2011 The Republicans revived the name Education and the Workforce, a name it was given by Republicans in 1997.