Statement attributable to Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America:
“Feeding America applauds today’s unanimous passage of the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016 by the Senate Agriculture Committee. We commend Chairman Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking-Member Stabenow (D-MI) and their staff for their leadership and commitment to developing and passing bipartisan legislation to protect and strengthen child nutrition programs. With 1 in 5 children in America experiencing food insecurity, ensuring access to nutritious food both during school and when school is out is critically important.
“This legislation strengthens the ability of food banks, schools, child care centers and other community providers to serve low-income children during the summer and after school, times when too many of our nation’s children are going hungry. Currently, only around 18 percent of children who receive free or reduced price school meals are participating in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The improvements to SFSP, while not as substantial as needed, rightfully focus on high-need and hard-to-reach communities, providing them with new tools to help close the summer hunger gap.
“Food banks and other community organizations will be able to seamlessly operate one program year-round, rather than two, to reach kids year-round during summer and after school. Phased in over time, this will greatly reduce administrative red tape and allow providers to feed more kids.
“In hard to reach areas, states will have additional resources to feed children not currently accessing summer meals. For example, children in rural and suburban areas are often miles away from the nearest site that offers summer meals. This legislation will allow states to provide low-income families living in underserved, high-need areas with a summer electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card to purchase nutritious food directly from retail stores. Additionally, the bill provides much needed flexibility from the current requirement that children travel to and from a summer feeding site each day and consume their meals at that site. For example, in cases of extreme weather or safety concerns, such as when there are thunderstorms or heat emergencies in the middle of summer, children will now be able to take their meal away and consume it in the safety of their home, rather than being required to stay and eat at the site. In rural and other underserved areas, community providers will be able to implement innovative new models to reach children who are unable to travel to and from program sites.
“The bill also proposes significant changes to the way free and reduced price school meal applications are verified by better leveraging and incentivizing data matching with other low income programs. We applaud the Committee’s intent to increase program accuracy while reducing the paperwork burden on vulnerable low-income families and look forward to working with Congress as the legislation moves forward to ensure that it is implemented in a way that protects eligible children from falling through the cracks during the verification process.
“This bill shows that by working together, Congress can find common ground and make good child nutrition programs even better. Over the past two years, many Senators joined hands across the aisle to introduce and support important program advancements reflected in the compromise agreement.
“While this is a strong bill and a significant step forward, ending child hunger requires an investment of new resources. The impact of food insecurity on children’s short and long term health, development and educational outcomes is well documented and compelling.
“Today’s action by the Senate Agriculture Committee is a critical step forward. We urge the House of Representatives to build upon the Senate bill to protect and strengthen child nutrition programs and ensure a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization.”
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Feeding America is the nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. Together, we provide food to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs in communities across America. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate. Together we can solve hunger. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.