April 22, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) has cosponsored bipartisan legislation to expand summer meal programs across the country to ensure children maintain access to nutritious meals when school is out. The COVID-19 pandemic, and transition to remote learning, exacerbated the challenges that food insecure students face when schools are closed. The Summer Meals Act would expand eligibility and participation for summer meal programs, facilitate program administration, and improve access to these critical programs in hard to reach areas, including rural and underserved communities. In doing so, the bill will improve the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program, which provides low-income children — who would normally receive free or reduced lunch during the school year — with nutritious meals during the summer, after school, and when school is closed for vacations or emergencies.
“When schools across the nation pivoted to online-learning, many families who relied on school meals for students were left without a consistent source of nutrition for their children,” said Senator King. “Around the nation, too many children lose the access to food they rely upon when schools are closed – whether it’s during summer vacation, a holiday break, or an emergency situation such as the coronavirus pandemic. That’s why I’ve joined this bipartisan effort to expand support for school meal programs during breaks, so that no child will have to go without reliable access food when they’re not physically at school.”
“During the pandemic, we have seen food insecurity grow among Maine's children, and families across our state have been buoyed by school meals and summer meals available at no cost,” said Justin Strasburger, Executive Director of Full Plates Full Potential. “Access to food is a challenge for too many Maine kids, especially when school is out. The Summer Meals Act takes important steps to ensure that kids in more Maine communities have access to basic nutrition during the summer and after school. We applaud Senator King for his dedication to this important solution for Maine kids.”
According to Feeding America, 22 million kids rely on the National School Lunch Program for free and reduced-price meals. However, during summer vacations and when school is closed for emergencies, many students lose access to daily, healthy meals. Currently, less than 4 million students receive meals from the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program.
The Summer Meals Act would help close the gap for the 18 million children who risk going hungry when school is out. The legislation would allow more children to have access to summer meals, and expand flexibility for schools and students to participate in the program. Specifically, the Summer Meals Act would:
· Help more children access healthy food by lowering the threshold to allow areas with 40 percent or more of students receiving free or reduced lunch to be eligible for the program, rather than the current threshold of 50 percent.
· Reduce the paperwork burden for meal program sponsors who want to participate in the program.
· Improve nutrition in rural, underserved, and hard to reach areas by providing transportation grants for underserved areas to get children to summer meal sites and by promoting innovative ways to increase children’s access to summer meals, such as through mobile meal trucks.
· Offer sites the option of serving two meals and a snack or three meals to children who attend evening enrichment programs during the school year and summer months.
· Allow Summer Nutrition Program providers to serve food to children after emergencies or disasters and be reimbursed if the meals are taken off site.
In addition to Senator King, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).