Power Centers

GOP Takeover May Speed Anti-Hunger Bill

People on line to get food stamps

People, some seeking food stamps, in line to talk with social service case workers in Champaign, Ill. August 2010.  David Mercer/AP Photo hide caption

itoggle caption David Mercer/AP Photo

Prospects look good for passage of a $4.5 billion child-nutrition bill before Congress adjourns for the year.

More than 1,100 anti-hunger, health and other groups sent a letter to House lawmakers Thursday urging them to accept the Senate version of the bill, which would send it straight to President Obama for his signature.

The groups include such leaders as Feeding America and Catholic Charities.

The letter follows word earlier this week that two key Democrats who opposed the Senate bill — Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Rep. Rosa De Lauro of Connecticut — are also ready to jump on board.

They were concerned that the Senate bill would pay for expanding child- nutrition programs, in part, by paring back a future increase in food-stamp benefits, approved last year in the Economic Recovery Act.

McGovern complained before the election that it was like robbing "Peter to pay Paul."  And 106 House lawmakers sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposing the cuts.

But that was then. With Republicans taking the helm in the House in January, Democrats and many anti-hunger groups realize this is probably the best bill they can get right now.

Also, the Obama administration — which has made child nutrition a top priority — has pledged to try to restore the funding before the cuts take effect in 2013.

It's also taking a number of administrative steps to expand access to the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program, or SNAP, which is what food stamps are now called.

In today's letter, the anti-hunger groups say they're still "troubled" by the SNAP cuts, but with one in four children facing hunger and one in three overweight and obese, "our children cannot afford to wait for the improvements to child nutrition that are made in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act."

The bill would expand school lunch and other nutrition programs and promote healthier choices.

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