Lawmakers fighting to save summer meal programs in school

School lunch stock photo
Photo credit Getty Images

A bipartisan groups of lawmakers Tuesday announced the Keep Kids Fed Act to provide funding for meals at schools and summer school programs and extend waivers first offered during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This act is intended to “provide important funding and flexibility for communities to provide children healthy meals this summer and provide support to schools and daycares to respond to supply chain challenges and high food costs for the coming school year, according to a statement from Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who serves as the chair of Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

Along with Stabenow, Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Rep.
Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) have worked on the legislation.

According to a statement from Vince Hall – chief government relations officer for the Feeding America hunger relief network – the bill would provide temporary authority to U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide summer meal program flexibilities, eliminate the reduced-price meal category, and increase reimbursement rates to help offset rising food costs.

“Together, these provisions will provide significant help for children who often do not know where they will get their next meal, particularly in communities of color who experience hunger at a disproportionate rate,” said Hall.

In particular, he said that waivers included as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act “remain essential to addressing child food insecurity.” These waivers are set to expire at the end of the month, and lawmakers are rushing to pass the legislation through by June 30.

“Time is running out! My agreement with Senator Boozman, Representative Scott and Representative Foxx will help keep kids fed and is fully paid for,” said Senator Stabenow. “With 90% of our schools still facing challenges as they return to normal operations, this will give our schools and summer meal programs much-needed support to deal with ongoing food service issues. Congress needs to act swiftly to pass this critical help.”

NPR reported that, although the proposal costs $30 billion, it is “budget neutral,” to encourage support from conservatives. While the proposal was created by a bipartisan group the outlet said there “is still no clear path to passage, according to aides familiar with negotiations.”

Rep. Foxx cited ongoing supply chain issues and inflation as reasons why Congress should support the legislation as the deadline looms.

“The bipartisan Keep Kids Fed Act will empower schools to weather supply chain problems and inflation with targeted and temporary aid to schools,” she said.