Free school meals, national Summer EBT included in anti-hunger billNutrition
First Focus Campaign for Children applauds the introduction of the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act (H.R. 8450), aimed at reducing child hunger and improving the health and educational outcomes of millions of children by reauthorizing the federal nutrition programs that support them.
“Children can’t be expected to feel happy and healthy, let alone to learn, on empty stomachs,” said First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley. “We are particularly pleased to see increased and easier access to free school meals, creation of a nationwide Summer EBT program and provisions for addressing national emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic. H.R. 8450 puts children’s health and development at the center of the federal nutrition program and we urge Congress to swiftly pass these critical investments in children’s health and well-being.”
The bill’s sponsors, Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), both received First Focus Campaign for Children’s 2021 Champions for Children award.
Specifically, First Focus Campaign for Children commends the bill’s sponsors for including the following provisions:
- Increased access to school meals by expanding the Community Eligibility Provision, which will allow more school districts to provide free meals and allow children on Medicaid to be automatically certified for free school meals.
- Modernization of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and children (WIC) by expanding WIC eligibility to age 6, permanently relaxing the physical presence requirement, and streamlining certification.
- Creation of a nationwide Summer EBT program which will provide $75 per month per household to address hunger during the summer months.
- Increased reimbursement rates for the National School Lunch Program and commodity support to the School Breakfast Program, which will preserve the future of school meals.
- Authorization of waivers to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) during federally declared emergencies.
- Protection for children and families with unpaid school meal fees and requirement for school districts to take steps to determine if families who are accruing school lunch debt are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
- Strengthening of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) by providing an additional reimbursable meal or snack for children in a full day of care and allowing children in households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to be automatically eligible for CACFP.
- Requiring USDA to align the nutrition standards for summer meals with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, so students have access to the same healthy meals during the summer as they do during the school year