Washington, DC – In 2020, 7.6% of U.S. households with children experienced food insecurity. Nutrition security also impacts a child’s risk of obesity, something even more common than childhood food insecurity, with one in five children and adolescents ages 2-19 having obesity.

With these issues in mind and as Congress prepares to consider Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR), the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Food and Nutrition Security Task force released their second report with recommendations focusing on the child nutrition programs.

“The federal child nutrition programs are critical to ensuring children have access to nutritious food, regardless of whether school is in session. Feeding children is a bipartisan policy; it is also a national security issue,” said Bill Hoagland, BPC senior vice president. “The last time these programs were authorized was nearly a decade ago. The recommendations of this distinguished bipartisan group should guide the 117th Congress in its deliberations to ensure that all children receive nutritious, heathy meals throughout their formative years.”

Strengthening the Child Nutrition Programs, the second of three reports from the Task Force, lays out bipartisan, consensus-based recommendations for strengthening these programs through CNR, as well as other federal legislative, administrative, and private-sector actions. The recommendations include:

  • Provide school meals at no cost to all families.
  • Strengthen nutrition in school nutrition programs, as well as nutrition education.
  • Support investments in kitchen equipment and infrastructure.
  • Expand access to out-of-school nutrition programs and make the summer EBT grocery benefit a permanent program.
  • Improve nutrition and modernize service delivery in the WIC program.
  • Maintain and/or strengthen nutrition standards for all programs.
  • Streamline and facilitate eligibility, enrollment, and data sharing across programs.
  • Support an increase in accessibility, affordability, and intake of fruits and vegetables.

All 13 recommendations can be found in the full report.

The Food and Nutrition Security Task Force was launched in May 2021 and is comprised of 18 public- and private-sector leaders.

Task force Co-Chair and FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin said, “The recommendations outlined in this report demonstrate efforts to find additional ways to improve the impact of critical childhood nutrition programs in the United States. In particular, FMI has supported the goals of the Summer EBT program, and making it permanent will help ensure that children have access to nutritious foods year-round. It is vital that we, along with our nation’s policymakers, take steps to strengthen these federal government programs in a way that supports increased access to affordable, healthful foods for all.”

“It is very difficult to be learning or concentrating in school on an empty stomach. We are putting the future of those children in jeopardy and therefore the future of America and the future of the world,” said World Central Kitchen Founder and task force Co-Chair José Andrés. “The universal school meal is the best investment we can make right now for the future health of our people; in the best interest of national security, the best interest of better equity, and prosperity for our entire country.”

The Food and Nutrition Security Task Force’s first brief, Improving Food and Nutrition Security During COVID-19, the Economic Recovery, and Beyond, is also available online.