McGovern, House Democrats Call for Bipartisan Action to Strengthen Child Nutrition Programs

McGovern Rejects House Republican Bill that Cuts Vital Child Nutrition Programs

This week, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) – co-chair of the bipartisan House Hunger Caucus – spoke on the House floor with House Democrats to condemn the dangerous cuts proposed by House Republicans in their bill to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act. Click Here for Video of Congressman McGovern’s Speech.

Text of Congressman McGovern’s Speech Below:

“We are here because we are outraged. We are outraged by the Republican attempts to undermine our child nutrition programs. We’re outraged at their lousy child nutrition reauthorization bill. It is a terrible, terrible, terrible bill. My friends should be ashamed of this bill.

“A nutritious school meal is just as important to a child’s success in school as a textbook. Hungry children can’t concentrate. They can’t focus on their studies. In short, hungry children cannot learn. That is a fact. Everybody knows that. And yet, we have a bill that my Republican friends have drafted that will increase hunger. That will actually take food out of the mouths of children. It is outrageous.

“Together, our child nutrition programs – WIC, school breakfast and lunch, the Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program -- provide nutritional support for children year round in places where they live, learn, and play.

“Unfortunately, H.R. 5003, which is the Republican reauthorization bill, includes a number of harmful provisions that would roll back years of progress and hamper the ability of children to access healthy meals. As I said, to be very blunt, it makes hunger worse in this country.

“Specifically, the bill would undermine the successful Community Eligibility Provision -- first included in the last reauthorization bill -- that has allowed high-poverty school districts to offer universal school meals to all students. In its first two years, CEP helped more than 8.5 million low-income students access free meals.

“Instead of building on the success of this program, my Republican friends would severely restrict schools’ eligibility for the community eligibility option.

“The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 7,022 schools currently using community eligibility would lose it under this Republican bill. And another 11,647 schools that qualify for community eligibility, but who have not yet adopted it, would be prevented from doing so in the future.

“As we approach the summer months, it’s also important to remember that child hunger gets worse in the summer. Consider this: for every 6 children who get a lunch at school each day; only 1 receives a meal in the summertime.

“Instead of being a carefree time, for children who depend on getting healthy, reliable school meals during the school year, the summer months can be a time of stress, anxiety and hunger. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Unfortunately, this Republican bill cuts the successful Summer EBT pilot program, which provides a temporary boost in food assistance benefits during the summer months for families whose children receive free school meals during the school year. And it fails to make necessary investments to expand the reach of the Summer Food Service Program so that more kids have access to healthy summer meals in their neighborhoods.

“In addition, this bill rolls back evidence-based standards that made school meals healthier. USDA estimates that more than 90 percent of schools have successfully, successfully implemented these standards.

“You know, my grandmother used to say to me when I was growing up, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ I wish I was still alive so I could tell her she was right. Food is medicine. When we eat good nutritious food, we tend to have healthy lives. If you eat bad food, if you eat junk food,  then you end up getting health issues like diabetes, like high-blood pressure, like obesity, and I could go on and on and on.

“Why, in the world, would anybody want to lower the nutrition standards in our school meals to give our kids junkier, less nutritious food? What sense does that make?

“And if my colleagues, who are advocating these reversals of smart policy doing so only because they want to save a few dollars, let me tell you something: You’re saving nothing. If we don’t get this right, if we don’t insist that our kids have access to healthy, nutritious food, the medical costs associated with the health challenges they will experience are astronomical. Hundreds of billions of dollars in avoidable health care costs as a result of children not having access to good food.

“Fifteen million children face hunger in this country. Instead of undoing the success we have already achieved, Congress should be focused on ways we can strengthen these vital child nutrition programs.

“Let me just say finally, it is hard for me to understand why we have to be here today, why everything is a fight when it comes to dealing with issues of hunger, when it comes to dealing with issues of making sure our kids get access to good nutrition. It is always a fight to protect so many vital food and nutrition programs that help our kids.  

“There is either a shocking ignorance about the reality of the poverty that millions of our children face in this country or simply indifference. Those are the only two ways I can explain what is going on in this chamber. And whichever one it is, it is a sad excuse for what my Republican friends are trying to do.

“Let’s come together. This should be a bipartisan issue. There was a time when fighting hunger, making sure that our kids had access to nutritious food was a bipartisan issue. George McGovern and Bob Dole worked together in the 1970s to strengthen our food and nutrition programs.

“But now, in this chamber, these issues have become controversial. And it is sad because there are a lot of people in this country who are depending on us to find ways to end hunger in America. They’re depending on us to make sure that their kids, when they go to school, have access to nutritious food and that they have access to nutritious food during the summer months as well. Why are my friends making it so difficult? Enough. Enough of this. Stop beating up on the most vulnerable people in this country. Let’s come together, let’s reject this awful draft of the child nutrition reauthorization bill. Let’s come together and do this right.”