This afternoon, the Senate passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, providing $4.5 billion to school lunch and other federal child-nutrition programs. If passed by the House and signed by President Obama, as expected, it will be the first time in three decades that Congress has increased funding for the programs.
The House is returning from its recess on Tuesday to vote on a $26.1 billion state aid bill, but is not expected to vote on the child nutrition bill then, meaning it will get a vote in mid-September.
The bill was bipartisan and deficit-neutral, and came with the support of First Lady Michelle Obama. On Monday, she wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post urging the Senate to fit the provision into its intensely busy legislative calendar. Today, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) came to an agreement with Republican leadership, and moved the provision by unanimous consent, waiving a voice vote.
The bill, controversially, is offset mostly with cuts from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, already cut to help pay for the state aid bill. Congress made SNAP benefits more generous in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the $787 billion Feb. 2009 stimulus bill. To pay for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the bill reduces some of the additional benefits, starting in a few years. Senate aides stressed that Democrats left the SNAP benefits requested in the Farm Bill untouched, and argued that tackling childhood hunger would reduce the strain on family food budgets and the SNAP program overall.
From the Agriculture Committee, where the bill originated, here is a summary of its major provisions:
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