Statement Attributed to Vince Hall, Chief Government Relations Officer
“As the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, Feeding America applauds Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) for introducing the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act of 2022 to reauthorize the child nutrition programs.
“The bill makes strong investments and improvements to ensure children can access meals all year, increase nutrition quality across programs, and simplify program administration and operation. This includes long-needed enhancements to eligibility and access for school meal programs, child care meal programs, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
“When school gates are locked for summer or other long breaks, millions of children are locked out of what is often their only reliable source of balanced, nutritious meals. This legislation makes critical improvements to help meal providers reach children when school is not in session. Specifically, it increases efficiency by allowing community-based organizations to operate a single program year-round and lowering the key program eligibility threshold for summer meal sites. These provisions will streamline administrative procedures for provider organizations, like food banks and other community-based organizations, and make more summer meal programs available to children facing hunger. The bill also establishes a Summer EBT benefit of $75 a month to bolster the grocery budgets of families with low incomes during summer breaks. In recent years, Summer EBT pilots and the temporary Pandemic EBT program have proven that this approach lowers food insecurity among children and leads to more nutritious meals.
“However, we are disappointed the bill does not give summer meal programs the option to serve meals in a non-congregate setting. When children are allowed to eat meals off-site, communities can adopt innovative program models to reach kids who lack access to a summer meal site. Such approaches have been tested for more than a decade, including through temporary waivers during the pandemic. We know that giving states and community providers the flexibility to customize meal programs to meet local needs is an effective way to keep kids fed, especially in rural communities. As the House moves forward, and in future work in the Senate, we hope to see provisions like this included to make child nutrition programs as strong as possible.
“The number of children facing hunger in the U.S. rose during the pandemic from more than 10 million children in 2019 to nearly 12 million children in 2020. Stronger child nutrition programs—together with other federal food assistance programs—can help reverse this terrible trend.
“We urge Congress to stand firm against child hunger by passing the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act.”
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About Feeding America
Feeding America® is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Through a network of more than 200 food banks, 21 statewide food bank associations, and over 60,000 partner agencies, food pantries and meal programs, we helped provide 6.6 billion meals to tens of millions of people in need last year. Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and improve food security among the people we serve; brings attention to the social and systemic barriers that contribute to food insecurity in our nation; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.