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Food Programs Reauthorized

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Washington--After hours of behind-the-scenes lobbying and pre-dawn staff meetings, the Senate passed a bill late last month to reauthorize five child-nutrition programs at current spending levels--allowing for inflation--for the next four years.

"We are delighted," said Marshall Matz, a lobbyist for the American School Food Service Association. "This is the first bill we've been able to get through the United States Senate since 1978 that didn't have budget cuts."

The Senate legislation was a compromise between the $400-million reduction requested by the Reagan Administration in the programs' $5.3-billion budget and the $121 million in additional funds included in a bill, HR 7, passed by the House in September. (See Education Week, Nov. 27, 1985.)

"The bill represents a true compromise between those who wanted further budget cuts and those who wanted to increase spending," Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole, Republican of Kansas, said on the Senate floor as debate drew to a close. "It does neither. But this is a big step, because it has taken us about two years to get to this point in the Senate."

Funding for WIC

The Senate version of HR 7, introduced by Senator Paula Hawkins, Republican of Florida, would reauthorize through 1989 the Special Supplemental Food Program for the Women, Infants, and Children (wic), the Summer Food Program, the commodity-distribution program, the Nutrition Education and Training Program, and the State Administration Program.

The House version includes, as part of its proposed $121-million increase in the programs, provisions for a 6-cent increase in school-breakfast reimbursements to schools, and an additional $60 million for the $1.5-billion wic program. The House bill reauthorizes the programs until 1988, while the Senate version extends them until 1989.

The bills are expected to go to conference before the Christmas break, Congressional aides said.

Bipartisan Support

Although lobbyists said they preferred the House bill, they were most concerned with fending off an alternative drafted by Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina and chairman of the Agriculture Committee. Senator Helms's proposal, which was never introduced, contained a number of provisions that would have cut back on services to needy children, they said.

The Senate action, Mr. Matz said, "put back on track the bipartisan nature of support for this program in the Senate. We think that's very important for the long-term political stability of the programs."

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