Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined a bipartisan group of senators in leading the charge to make federal child nutrition programs more efficient, flexible, and better equipped to reach children in need during the summer months. The group introduced the Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act of 2019 to give states additional options under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which offers children from low-income families free lunch and snacks in the summer.
“As a former school superintendent, I've seen firsthand the effect an empty stomach can have on a kid's ability to learn and succeed in school. While child hunger is a problem year round, it is especially prominent in the summer months when children are unable to access meals at school,” said Bennet. “Our bill creates more flexibility in the summer meals program so we can increase access to fresh, healthy food, helping to reduce childhood hunger and ensure children return to school ready to learn.”
Currently, children must travel to a central location and eat their meals together. This works well in some communities; however, in rural areas, it can be difficult for children to reach a site, if one even exists. In suburban and urban areas, various issues, like inconsistent transportation, can keep children from these sites and cause them to miss a meal.
The Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act of 2019 proposes two alternative options states can utilize through the program. The first would allow for meals to be consumed off-site through innovative means like mobile feeding programs and backpack meal programs. The other option would authorize the summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program which would provide eligible families $30 per summer month per child, with a maximum of $100 per child per year, to purchase eligible food items from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) approved retailers. In USDA pilot programs, summer EBT was shown to reduce child hunger by over 30 percent.
The Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act of 2019 has the support of leading national advocacy groups including Feeding America, Share Our Strength, Alliance to End Hunger, Bread for the World, United Way Worldwide, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, First Focus Campaign for Children, and the Congressional Hunger Center.