Child Nutrition Programs:

Reauthorization Issues

RCED-98-81R: Published: Feb 13, 1998. Publicly Released: Feb 13, 1998.

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Robert A. Robinson
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GAO reviewed the findings and recommendations from several of its recent reports on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the school lunch programs.

GAO noted that: (1) the WIC program provides lower-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5 with nutritious supplemental foods, nutrition education, and referrals to health care services; (2) in the past, Congress has raised concerns about the amount of federal WIC funds that states had not spent by the end of the fiscal year (FY) and were required to return to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for reallocation in the following fiscal year; (3) these unspent federal funds totalled about $137.5 million of the @$3.5 billion appropriated for the WIC program in fiscal year 1995; (4) state officials disclosed a variety of reasons for these unspent funds; (5) in September 1997, GAO reported that the states have used a variety of cost-containment initiatives to control the costs of the WIC program; (6) local WIC agencies have taken a variety of strategies to improve access to WIC benefits for working women; (7) the Food and Nutrition Service requires the states to operate a rebate program for infant formula; (8) by negotiating rebates with manufacturers of infant formula purchased through WIC, the states greatly reduce their average per-person food costs so that more people can be served; (9) the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to more than 26 million children each school day at a federal cost of about $5.2 billion in FY 1997; (10) the students participating in the NSLP tended to waste a higher percentage of nutrients in their lunches--calories, protein, saturated fat, and total fat--than those not participating in the program; (11) authorities using food service companies had about the same situation regarding budget deficits as those that did not use food services companies, but they also reported lower levels of student participation in the NSLP; (12) the school food authorities' contracts with food service management companies varied in content and compliance with the federal requirements governing these contracts; (13) some states and school food authorities have developed a number of best practices to help contain the costs of operating school meal programs; (14) although batching restrictions were generally not a concern to processors, a few processors reported that the restrictions might limit their ability to operate at full production capacity; and (15) to help ensure compliance with the batching restrictions, state agencies and schools rely on on-site graders of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service.

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