The Urban School Food Alliance of 17 of the largest U.S. school districts will provide training to districts across the country on how to purchase high-quality food while keeping costs low, said the Agriculture Department on Wednesday.
While four out of every five eligible Americans are enrolled in SNAP, participation in the Women, Infants, and Children program is much lower — 50 percent, say USDA data. On Thursday, the government announced $16 million in funding for 36 projects to test ways to encourage participation in WIC.
Public schools would face their first-ever limit on sugar in the food they serve in their cafeterias as part of an Agriculture Department proposal for healthier meals. The USDA package called for a staggered phase-in of new standards on sugar, sodium, whole grains and flavored milk, but was criticized as costly and unworkable by school food directors.
The Agriculture Department proposed an update to the WIC program on Thursday that would let participants buy three, or even four, times as many fruits and vegetables and would broaden the range of foods available through the program to reflect the diversity of the American diet. The expansion of fruit and vegetable allowances would increase WIC spending by 14 percent and require Congress to appropriate additional money to the $6 billion-a-year program.
The great majority of public schools serve breakfasts and lunches that contain higher amounts of added sugar than recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, said a USDA report to Congress. “The main source of added sugars ... was flavored fat-free milk,” it said.
More children would be eligible for free school meals and the WIC program would cover children up to age 6 under legislation approved on a party-line vote by the House Education and Labor Committee on Wednesday. While the bill’s Democratic sponsors claimed it will reduce child hunger, Republican Rep. Lisa McClain said it “is chock-full of new spending” when austerity is needed to dampen high inflation.
An estimated 13 million children in 25 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will receive benefits through the summer EBT program, said the Agriculture Department on Monday. Families of eligible children typically receive $391 per child for the summer.
A crash program to streamline U.S. imports of infant formula has worked so well, the FDA will make it permanent, said agency leaders on Wednesday. The program, which began in May when domestic supplies ran low, has resulted in shipments from nine countries of enough formula to fill 400 million 8-ounce bottles.
U.S. infant formula makers are revving up production and the door is open to imported formula, so “we should see improvement in a matter of days” from shortages nationwide, FDA commissioner Robert Califf said Thursday on Capitol Hill. Califf also said he would strengthen food safety procedures at the agency, though key lawmakers argued he was not going far enough.
President Biden invoked his executive powers on Wednesday to give infant formula manufacturers first call on ingredients, and announced Operation Fly Formula, which would carry formula from overseas suppliers to the United States. Both steps were aimed at alleviating shortages that followed the shutdown of a large formula plant in Michigan, where FDA inspectors found bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
House Democratic leaders unveiled a pair of bills on Tuesday to ease infant formula shortages and beef up the FDA office in charge of assuring the products are safe for babies. "People are selling samples on the street. Mothers are watering down formula. Quite frankly, they're desperate," said Rep. Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, sponsor of one of the bills.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will vote this week on emergency legislation to relax some WIC regulations on infant formula, now in short supply, "so that we can get nutrition into the mouths of America's babies." Through WIC, the government buys about half of the infant formula sold in the country.
One in 10 U.S. households were food insecure in 2020, the same level as a year earlier, the USDA's Economic Research Service reported Wednesday. The flat rate of food insecurity provided evidence that government and charitable programs during the Covid-19 pandemic tempered a rise in hunger despite the deep recession.
Participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) saw widespread declines during the pandemic, continuing a trend that took hold over the past decade due to significant enrollment hurdles. The declines contrasted with the sharp rise in demand for programs like SNAP and Medicaid. (No paywall)
More than two months since the Biden administration announced the most ambitious summer food program in U.S. history, the USDA has approved benefits distribution plans for just 18 states — even with school out of session across the country.
With hunger levels stubbornly high and an estimated 1 in 5 American children obese, Stacy Dean, the deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services, told lawmakers Wednesday that the USDA would update nutrition standards for school meals and the WIC program to meet current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
More than three dozen Democrats in the House and Senate proposed a dramatic expansion of U.S. spending on school meals to provide free meals for all students, not just low-income children. "What we've seen during this pandemic is that a universal approach to school meals works," said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a lead sponsor. "We cannot go backwards."
The Agriculture Department on Tuesday announced plans to launch the most significant summer food program in U.S. history, expanding a pandemic-era benefit to feed more than 30 million children over the summer break. Now, anti-hunger advocates are hoping to leverage the expansion into a permanent summer benefits program, a longstanding goal that would fill a gap in food access when school is out.(No paywall)
The Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it will be delivering boxes of food to children affected by school closures due to the novel coronavirus in rural America. In partnership with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, and PepsiCo, the USDA says it will eventually deliver 1 million meals per week.(No paywall)