Senate passes child nutrition legislation

The Senate passed S. 2057, legislation that will continue the child nutrition programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the next five years, without objection Wednesday night.

The programs touch the lives of one out of every five people in this country, including over 37 million children and nearly 2 million lower-income pregnant and postpartum women, according to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. The Committee unanimously reported the bill to the Senate on May 19.

“This bill reflects the commitment of the Committee to ensure that our nation’s children have access to the nutrition they need to lead a healthy life,” said Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., committee chairman. “All of the worthwhile and important initiatives contained in this bill will play a significant part in ensuring that our children have access to good nutrition.

“Even though we had no money for new initiatives, we believe the committee has put together an overall package that improves these programs while protecting the interests of the participants.”

In a statement introducing the bill to the Senate, Cochran thanked Iowa Senator Tom Harkin for his assistance and for continuing the long-standing tradition of a bipartisan approach to the development of child nutrition bills in the Committee.

According to the Congressional Research Service, total fiscal year 2004 spending for these programs will be an estimated $16.4 billion, and the administration’s fiscal year 2005 budget anticipates spending $16.85 billion.

The Budget Committees of both the Senate and House have included new mandatory money that will enable continuation of otherwise expiring provisions contained in current law.

Cochran said the most important components of the bill are:

-- protection of the integrity of school meal program benefits

-- participation of for-profit child care centers in the Child and Adult Care Food Program

-- protection of school meal benefits for military families

-- expansion of the Summer Food Service Program Lugar Pilots

-- expansion of the Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program

-- improvements to the WIC Program.

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