Senate panel sets Jan. 20 vote on school nutrition bill

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2016 - The Senate Agriculture Committee is set to move a bipartisan bill next week to reauthorize child nutrition programs and provide some permanence to higher school meal standards that the Obama administration implemented. 

The bill will provide some flexibility to operators of school and summer feeding programs, but also will have “a strong emphasis on continuing the advancements” in nutrition made under the expired Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, according to a source familiar with the draft legislation. 

Lets Talk Food The source declined to discuss the flexibility provisions, but schools have specifically wanted to delay reductions in sodium limits and relief from the new whole grains standard. 

Both issues have been addressed on a temporary basis through annual appropriation bills. The Senate bill is expected to provide some extra funding for summer feeding programs but not for increasing school reimbursements. 

The School Nutrition Association, which represents local school meal programs, and the School Superintendents Association wrote lawmakers last fall appealing for more funding to cover the higher costs incurred because of the higher standards. 

The bill includes provisions to improve program integrity and would remove some barriers to child participation, the source said.  

The committee has set a markup for the bill on Jan. 20. 

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The legislation reflects compromises worked out between Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and the committee's ranking Democrat, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. They wanted to attach the reauthorization measure to the fiscal 2016 omnibus spending bill enacted in December, but aides to House Speaker Paul Ryan objected to the plan, said Roberts. 

Minnesota GOP Rep. John Kline, the chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over child nutrition programs in that chamber, has said he plans to move his own version of the legislation. 

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