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Bonamici Introduces Bill to Provide Free School Meals to All Students During COVID-19 Pandemic

July 30, 2020
Press Release

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. [07/30/2020] – Today, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) introduced legislation to make all students eligible for free school meals during the 2020-2021 school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act would allow all children to access breakfast, lunch, and afterschool snack programs either in school or through “grab and go” and delivery options.

 

The Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act is co-led by Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-02), and Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-05).

 

“Nutritious meals help students stay healthy while they learn and grow,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “For many children, school meals provided their primary source of nutrition before the pandemic, and now even more families struggle to put food on their tables because of unemployment and unexpected financial distress. We must provide students with the meals they need to reach their full potential, no matter where they are learning this upcoming school year. I’m glad to be joining Chairman Scott and Representatives Fudge, McGovern, and Omar in introducing this important legislation to prevent child hunger and expand access to meals for more families.”

 

According to the Brookings Institute, 35 percent of households with children under 18 already were experiencing food insecurity in April. As the pandemic continues to cause widespread economic hardship, experts fear that the child hunger crisis could become even worse.

 

School meal programs, which have suffered severe financial losses due to the pandemic, are struggling to maintain services for students. In May, program directors reported a median estimated loss of $200,000 per district, with an estimated loss of as much as $2.35 million in larger districts. By increasing school meal participation rates, the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act would help save these programs from insolvency.

 

The proposal would also eliminate paperwork for families and school officials, who would not have to fill out and process applications during a time of crisis.

 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated our nation’s child hunger crisis, created record high unemployment, and caused prolonged economic hardship—leaving many families struggling to cover basic essentials,” said Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott. “The Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act would help address the child hunger crisis, make it easier for schools to operate school meal programs, and provide financial relief to school meal programs that have suffered heavy losses during the pandemic. This legislation will ensure that all children will have access to nutrition during this public health emergency.”

 

Under the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act:

  • All students will temporarily be made eligible for free school meals during the 2020-2021 school year through the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
    • Due to the flexibility granted to USDA under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, free school meals will be available to students during remote learning through “grab and go” or meal delivery.
    • All school districts, including those operating off-site services, can serve all children without having to certify the eligibility of each individual child.
  • Anywhere in the country, schools and non-profit community partners can operate meal services, including off-site, under the Summer Food Service Programs (SFSP) and the Summer Seamless Option (SSO), where they can serve all children without having to certify the eligibility of each individual child.
  • Anywhere in the country, schools and non-profit community partners will be able to serve afterschool meals and snacks, under the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) At-Risk Afterschool Program or the NSLP Afterschool Snack Program, without having to certify the eligibility of each individual child.
  • All Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) day care homes will be eligible for reimbursement at the Tier 1 level.

 

The legislation is cosponsored by Susan A. Davis (CA-53), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Joe Morelle (NY-25), Susan Wild (PA-07), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Alma Adams (NC-12), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), and Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), and Tim Ryan (OH-13).

 

This legislation is endorsed by AASA, The School Superintendents Association; the American Academy of Pediatrics; Food Research and Action Center (FRAC); Feeding America; the National Education Association (NEA); the American Federation of Teachers (AFT); the School Nutrition Association; the American Public Health Association; Center for American Progress; Hunger Free America; UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity; FoodCorps; National Farm to School Network; Bread for the World; American Commodity Distribution Association; National Association of School Nurses; Children’s HealthWatch; Trust for America’s Health; National PTA; United Fresh Produce Association; MomsRising; Urban School Food Alliance; the American Heart Association; MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger; the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Center for Science in the Public Interest; Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education and Policy, Teachers College, Columbia University; First Focus Campaign for Children; Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO); and Social Security Works.

 

For a fact sheet of the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act, click here.

 

For the bill text of the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act, click here.

 

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