Bipartisan Bill Ensures Access to Nutritious Meals in Summer Months
Washington, DC - Following a discussion in the Senate Agriculture Committee about childhood hunger and the summer meals program with actor Jeff Bridges, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet is pressing his colleagues to pass his bipartisan bill to improve access to child nutrition programs during the summer months. The bill, introduced with Senator John Boozman (R-AR) in August, would make the summer meals programs more effective and flexible to help them reach more children in need, particularly children in rural communities.
"Every teacher in this country will tell you that kids who are eating nutritious meals are better prepared to excel in school and live happy and healthy lives," Bennet said. "But for too many students, a majority of their meals come from free and reduced meal programs at school. Many kids don't currently have access to these vital meals during the summer months, and as a result, go hungry. Our bill gives states more flexibility to extend these programs when school isn't in session to ensure kids aren't going hungry."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture currently operates its Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to offer children from low-income families free lunch and snacks during the summer. Unfortunately, in Colorado only nine percent of children eligible for free or reduced school lunch receive summer meals. This includes the 31 percent of low-income kids who live outside of areas eligible for an open summer meals site.
The Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act would provide states with two additional options for addressing child hunger during the summer months including:
- Authorizing summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) and providing eligible families up to $30 per summer month per child to purchase eligible food items. In United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) pilot programs, Summer EBT reduced the most severe forms of food insecurity for children by 33 percent.
- Allowing states the flexibility to choose what makes the most sense in their communities by giving states the option to provide summer meals without a centralized feeding site when a certain condition exists, such as in a rural area, in an area that is not eligible to operate an open summer meals site, during a time of extreme weather, or when there are public safety concerns.
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