Senator Leahy has been a longtime champion of childhood nutrition programs and has taken an active role in advocating for Farm to School initiatives to improve nutritional standards for school lunches. Senator Leahy helped lead the fight in Congress against hunger and is a strong supporter of the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or 3SquaresVT in Vermont. With rising food costs and shortages at food banks and emergency food pantries, far too many Americans are unable to put adequate amounts of healthy food on the table for their families. Senator Leahy recognizes the important role nutritional foods play in healthy lifestyles, especially for children, and is dedicated to doing all he can so that no one in Vermont or America, young or old, has to worry about where their next meal is going to come from.
Farm To School Act Of 2015
Senator Leahy introduced the bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2015 with Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) in February of 2015 to increase the federal resources committed to helping to bring fresh, local foods to schools. The bill would raise the mandatory funding level of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm to School Grant Program from $5 million to $15 million. The legislation also addresses the growing demand for farm to school programming and technical support, and it would facilitate expansion of the program to include pre-schools, summer food service programs and after-school programs. The bill also would help grantees improve procurement and distribution of local food to stimulate local agricultural economies.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization (Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010)
Food insecurity is a troublesome reality throughout the nation. Currently, one in four children do not know where their next meal will come from. Senator Leahy understands that a hungry child cannot learn, and that a lack of proper nutrition has devastating effects on a child’s cognitive and physical growth. Studies show that food insecurity in underserved areas is largely contributing to increased rates of obesity and juvenile diabetes. The nation’s child nutrition programs were last reauthorized by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. This year, Congress is expected to debate the reauthorization of this crucial law. As a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Leahy is committed to ensuring a reauthorization includes strong support for children throughout the school day and at home. Senator Leahy is particularly invested in the Farm to School Program, which he authored in 2010 to connect local farmers with school cafeterias and classrooms.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or 3SquaresVT
Senator Leahy has long believed in the nation’s responsibility of ensuring disadvantaged families have access to healthy meals. SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program, was established in 1977. SNAP was most recently reauthorized in the 2014 Farm Bill that was signed into law on February 7, 2014. During the negotiations prior to the passage of the Farm Bill, a minority in the House of Representatives proposed nearly $40 billion in cuts to SNAP. Senator Leahy worked tirelessly with members across the aisle to avoid these drastic cuts. Senator Leahy pushed for mandatory funding in the Farm Bill to allow families to use their SNAP benefits at farmers’ markets and fresh food hubs, and for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares.
The Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
The WIC Program was established in 1974 to provide federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants and children up to age five who are insecure or at nutritional risk. The program is designed to supplement key nutrients that scientists fear are missing from the diets of low-income, pregnant and nursing women, infants and young children. In Vermont, at least 15,000 families use WIC, and over 9 million people benefit from the program nationwide. The WIC program is reauthorized in the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act. Senator Leahy is committed to ensuring the program remains strong for families in need.