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June 23, 2022

Collins, King Announce Passage of Bill to Support School Meal Programs, Extend Free School Lunches through Summer

 Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King announced that the Senate unanimously passed the Keep Kids Fed Act.  The legislation, which is based on a bill they co-sponsored earlier this year, will extend critical flexibilities for schools and meal programs to provide children healthy meals this summer and to help schools and daycares respond to supply chain challenges and high food costs for the coming school year.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of school meals for tens of thousands of Maine families.  In our state and across the country, schools have done a tremendous job working to support the nutritional needs of students through the challenges of the pandemic, helping to alleviate hunger and allowing students to focus on their studies,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement.  “As we emerge from this public health crisis, it is crucial that children are able to continue enjoying nutritious meals during the summer months, and have certainty those meals will be there when the school year begins.  In addition to supporting students and families, many schools in Maine and across the country are short-staffed and struggling to manage the added burden of inflation and supply chain disruptions. This legislation would give our nation’s schools and other meal programs the flexibility they need to continue to serve all students.”

The Keep Kids Fed Act would extend USDA school meal flexibilities for Summer 2022 to allow meal delivery and grab-and-go and non-congregate options to continue. The bill will also continue to waive area eligibility requirements for the summer so providers can serve all children for free. These flexibilities have given our schools and summer meal programs much-needed support to deal with ongoing food service issues and keep kids fed during the pandemic. The bill would also help schools transition back to normal meal operations under the National School Lunch Program for the 2022-2023 school year by extending certain administrative and paperwork flexibilities. This will assist meal program operators who are weathering a number of challenges, including staff shortages, supply chain breakdowns, and increased food costs. 

Additionally, the legislation provides a temporary increase in reimbursement rates for the 2022-23 school year.  This support is critical for schools, which are facing a 35-40% increase in food costs due to supply chain and inflation issues.

To read the bill text, click here.

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