Flowers are blooming, the sun feels warmer, occasional bouts of snow, and the state budget almost finished with the state legislature in full swing. Definitely April! Still not quite our usual April (keep wearing your masks!) – the legislature, typically frantic in April trying to get everything wrapped up by early May, is currently sailing along as they have until mid-June this year due to the pandemic. Federally, President Biden and his team have wasted no time: American Rescue Plan (ARP) for pandemic response, a new infrastructure plan revealed, and hearings and marker bills for Child Nutrition Reauthorization. I know we’ve said it before, but it really does look like something will happen in this Congressional session to reauthorize the bill that controls all child school nutrition programs, the Women, Infant, and Children program, and farm to school programs. Details on this – and more – right below!
We’re going to start off with a win! Although with the Long Bill (the state budget bill) still working its way through the House of Representatives, we haven’t popped the champagne just yet but we do have it chilling on ice. As followers of this space know, Nourish Colorado – with the support of many partners – was pursuing an increase of $300,000 in the Healthy Food Incentive Fund. The Joint Budget Committee authorized that increase, so the fund now has a total of $500,000 to use in support of the Double Up Food Bucks program and the popular Produce Box program. We will be developing the budgets for both of those programs and these funds in the next few weeks and will keep you updated. For more information about these programs, and other initiatives please visit our website.
As you also know, Nourish Colorado worked with many other entities in the farm and food space to develop a letter for Governor Polis regarding priorities for spending $88 million on farm and nutrition security priorities of the approximately $350 billion in federal COVID relief dollars coming into Colorado. No word on how the Governor and legislature plan to allocate those dollars just yet. In the meantime, we are hosting a series of webinars for people who may want to apply for one of the many federal grants offered for COVID relief. The first webinar that framed the grants and provided guidance and tools for developing federal grants occurred last Thursday the 8th. You can access a recording of it here, or if you prefer, just the slides, as well as these tools:
If you would like additional resources from the first webinar, contact Wendy Peters Moschetti at email@example.com.
The second webinar, focusing on stories and tips and tricks from people who have successfully and unsuccessfully applied for federal grants, is Thursday, April 15th at 1pm MDT. If you missed it, you can look for the recording and any tools on our website. The third webinar, discussing How To Improve Colorado and Federal Grant Processes, is Wednesday, April 28 at 3pm MDT. You can register here.
In addition to funding issues, we are supporting bills on immigrants’ rights, farmworkers’ rights, as well as a few others. You can find details on these bills on our state bill tracker where you can see bill numbers, our position on the bill, a brief summary and access links to see the bills and fiscal notes from the General Assembly website.
Our federal efforts so far remain laser focused on COVID relief funding and Child Nutrition Reauthorization.
The final version of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), H.R. 1319, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 10, 2021 and signed by President Biden on March 15. The total package was $1.9 trillion, which was on top of the $4 trillion passed in 2020. Subsequently, the individual stimulus efforts, checks and enhanced unemployment, have been arriving in people’s accounts and mailboxes for several weeks now. The childcare tax credit enhancement has garnered much attention as one of the most significant anti-poverty measures to pass Congress in decades. And, of course, there were multiple measures to address farm and nutrition security. The agriculture efforts will mostly come in the form of grants, which the webinar series mentioned above addresses in detail. For a good summary of food systems provisions, read here. Generally, agriculture assistance includes help for supply chains, loans specifically aimed at farmers and ranchers of color and military veterans, and rural development funds, among others. The $12 billion of nutrition security efforts include extending the 15% ($28 per person per month) SNAP increase through September, extending Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) through the summer (provides grocery benefits to replace meals missed by kids when out of school), increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables available for WIC participants while also modernizing the program, helping states cover administrative SNAP costs to meet increased demand, and providing grants to Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories to address nutrition security needs. More details on nutrition security pieces can be found in this article from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR)
Congress appears to be serious about finally updating and reauthorizing the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010; commonly referred to as Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR). For the past couple of months, members of Congress have been introducing marker bills, legislation they want to see included in the final reauthorization package. Our last blog mentioned the Farm to School Act of 2021, one example of a CNR marker bill. Other introduced marker bills include WIC age eligibility and summer meal programs. You can see a more comprehensive list of CNR marker bills, as well as other issues, on our federal bill tracker.
Additionally, on March 25th, the U.S. Senate Committee and Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held its first hearing on Child Nutrition Reauthorization: Healthy Meals and Healthy Futures, where they invited several organizations to talk about their CNR priorities. All this to say, Congress is getting serious about CNR. And so are we. Our CNR platform is currently under development, along with a joint platform from the federal policy group convened by the Blueprint to End Hunger. We will cover those in more detail in later blogs as they get developed. You can get more CNR details from this CNR Overview brought us to by the Congressional Research Service.
As mentioned above, in addition to CNR marker bills, we are following several other bills addressing farm and nutrition security. Follow along with us on farm and nutrition security legislation at the state and federal levels by visiting our bill trackers. If you are interested in a bill and don’t see it on these lists, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find the bill tracker links, as well as previous blogs, on the policy page of our website.