Through the Child Nutrition and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act, Congress has the opportunity to invest in the health and well-being of millions of children and families, including Latinos. Reauthorization should maintain and strengthen the critical child nutrition programs authorized under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, and ensure that low-income children have access to healthy meals and snacks at school, in after-school programs, and during the summer months. These programs are particularly important for Latino children and their opportunity and ability to lead healthy, productive lives.
Latino children face critical health disparities in their communities and are more likely to struggle with hunger and chronic health conditions like obesity than their peers. Low-income children, including 4.7 million Latino children living in food-insecure households, count on child nutrition programs to act as a buffer against hunger throughout the year.
The National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program hold particular importance for the Latino community. Seven million Latino children receive free and reduced-price school meals every day, accounting for one-third of all students participating in the program. Children living in households struggling with hunger consume 26% of their daily calories during school meals, compared to 16% for other children. It is critical that Latino children, especially those at risk of going hungry, have consistent access to healthy, nutritious food that might not be available at home.
It is not just at school where Latino children benefit from child nutrition programs. The Child and Adult Care Food Program provides nutritious meals and snacks for preschool-aged children in day care and school-aged children in after-school programs. Latino children have high participation rates in this program; 30% of four-year-olds in this program are Latino, compared to 20% of children younger than five overall. Studies show that low-income toddlers and preschool-aged children enrolled in the program are more likely to have a healthy weight for their age than their peers in child care with meals supplied from home.
For 70 years, federal child nutrition programs have played a vital role in ensuring that all children have the opportunity to grow up healthy. Increasing access to healthy, affordable food decreases hunger, improves academic success, and allows children to thrive. By reauthorizing these important programs, Congress has the opportunity to affirm its commitment to the health and well-being of America’s future.
For more information about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act and its impact on Latino children and families, download our fact sheet.