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Lutheran Office for
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Letter to Congress concerning Child Nutrition Programs
July 18, 2003
The Honorable Thad Cochran, Chair
Dear Mr. Chairman:
As members of the Senate Agriculture committee you have an opportunity to improve the child nutrition programs when you mark up child nutrition reauthorization legislation this year. The child nutrition programs have provided access to nutritious foods for millions of children. These successful programs are particularly important to children in low-income households where parents struggle to provide nutritious food for their children. The Food Policy Working Group calls upon you to improve the programs by expanding participation, reducing paperwork, and improving the nutrition quality of the food provided.
The Food Policy Working Group is a coalition of mostly religious anti-hunger advocacy organizations concerned with the development of a comprehensive food policy to end hunger in the United States. We believe that the right to food is a basic human right. As human beings we have the responsibility to feed ourselves and alleviate the hunger of our neighbors. However, the federal government also has an obligation to ensure that all people have access to an adequate diet.
Our first priority, and our greatest concern, pertains to proposals that are being developed to address alleged over-certification among children participating in the school lunch program. We are extremely concerned that this will result in removing significant numbers of eligible low- and moderate-income children from the program. The fundamental principle for the child nutrition program reauthorization should be to do no harm. Income verification studies carried out by USDA have found that, when income documentation is required, substantial numbers of eligible children are driven from the program. Any expansion of the number of children subject to income documentation requirements must be as limited as possible and combined with protections to make sure that eligible children continue to get the meals for which they are qualified. The most important step that could be taken to improve program integrity without risking harm to eligible children is to expand the use of categorical eligibility and direct certification, so that children whose income has already been verified in another means-tested program can be automatically enrolled for free or reduced-price lunches. Expanding direct certification would increase certification accuracy and reduce duplicative paperwork without posing risks to eligible low-income children. Ideally, any changes to the income verification process would be implemented first in a carefully evaluated pilot project.
We support the following investments in child nutrition programs as part of the reauthorization, but would note that these improvements should not be funded by expanding income verification in a manner that would harm eligible children. Our specific recommendations are:
Nutrition has a direct effect on the health and well-being of the children we so value. Providing for their nutritional needs is simply the right thing to do. Thank you for your consideration.
American Baptist Churches USA
American Friends Service Committee
America’s Second Harvest
Bread for the World
Call to Renewal
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Coalition on Human Needs
Congressional Hunger Center
Episcopal Church USA
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Food Research and Action Center
Lutheran Services in America
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
National Council of Churches
National WIC Association
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Washington Office
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
Volunteers of America
For additional information contact Kay Bengston, Assistant Director – Domestic Policy, Lutheran Office For Governmental Affairs, ELCA, Chair of the Food Policy Working Group; 122 C St. NW, #125; Washington, DC 20001; Phone: (202) 626-7942; E-mail: email@example.com.