Senate Appropriations Committee Protects Child Nutrition Safety Net
Washington – The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations voted today to approve legislation funding the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and related agencies for federal fiscal year (FY) 2014. The legislation provides $548 million more for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for FY 2014 than 2013 levels. This overall funding level allows the Senate bill to maintain investments in critical nutrition initiatives, including:
- An initiative that helps new mothers breastfeed their babies;
- A congressionally mandated initiative to modernize WIC, by moving from paper eligibility cards to more secure electronic cards; and
- Restore partially the WIC contingency fund, allowing WIC to accommodate increases in food costs or increases in need driven by economic conditions.
In addition to the legislation’s WIC provisions, it also funds School Meals Equipment Grants. Many local schools rely on central kitchens and maintain only warming equipment on site. The bill would provide $35 million in competitive grant funding to help schools acquire kitchen equipment ranging from salad bars to ovens. These grants would also help schools replace equipment like deep fryers with equipment useful in preparing meals better aligned with the objectives of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.
The Senate’s increased child nutrition funding reflects higher overall funding allocations made under the Senate-passed FY 2014 budget resolution. In total, the Senate appropriations allocation package provides an estimated $3.3 billion more to critical children’s priorities than 2013 funding levels. When federal budget sequestration is taken into account, the increased funding allocation for children’s priorities in 2014 is even greater.
This compares to a House Agriculture Appropriations bill that cuts WIC by more than $200 million in 2014 and fails to fund School Meals Equipment Grants. The overall House funding allocation package would result in estimated cuts totaling nearly $15 billion to critical children’s priorities.
In response, First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley released the following statement:
“Yes, the federal government has budget problems, but hungry kids didn’t cause them. While the House makes deep and dangerous cuts to child nutrition, the Senate Appropriations Committee recognizes that we can’t build a stronger tomorrow for children by denying them the things they need to succeed today.”
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The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.ffcampaignforchildren.org.