After months of procrastination, the U.S. Congress in late June finally passed the Child Nutrition and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Reauthorization Act of 2004. The measure, signed into law by the president, extends provisions of the National School Lunch and Breakfast Acts that had been due to expire and also adds a couple of new wrinkles to the programs.
The most prominent of these is a pilot program in five states that would test the feasibility of eliminating the reduced price school meal category for students who come from families eligible for the WIC assistance program, making them eligible for free school meals instead. Elimination of the reduced category in favor of free meals has been a primary goal of the American School Food Service Association (ASFSA) and other child nutrition advocacy groups.
Though the pilot program is a compromise on that principle, ASFSA says it was pleased with the outcome. “We are excited about the inclusion of a pilot to test the efficacy and impact of eliminating the reduced price category,” says ASFSA President Donna Wittrock. “We will now work with Congress to secure funds to carry out this pilot.”
In addition to the reduced meal pilot, the bill also extends an existing pilot program that provides subsidized fresh produce to schools, and streamlines administration of the summer food program.