Legislation Would Stop Free School Lunches From Expiring In June, Extend Flexibilities to Schools
Washington, D.C. - Today, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper joined 50 of their colleagues to introduce the Support Kids Not Red Tape Act. The bipartisan legislation, led by U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), will extend U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) school meal flexibilities and help schools transition back to normal meal operations.
Specifically, the bill extends USDA authority to issue waivers for child nutrition programs, which have allowed schools to implement flexibilities critical to providing meals during the pandemic. Ninety percent of schools still face challenges returning to normal operations, and these flexibilities give schools and summer meal programs much-needed support to keep kids fed.
“The last thing we should do is take away nutritious meals from kids,” said Bennet. “Our legislation takes an important step to ensure schools can continue to provide free meals to students as families struggle with higher costs. No kid should go hungry, especially in the wealthiest country in the world.”
“School meals keep kids fed,” said Hickenlooper. “Abruptly ending this program will lead to more hungry children. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
“The bill would give local schools and districts the flexibilities they need to serve the increasing number of students using our lunch programs. Schools need more time than just a few months to adjust to the changing landscape of child nutrition, and this bill would provide a much smoother transition for schools as they look toward the future. It would also provide additional funding to help school finances at a time when revenue has fluctuated dramatically, and school staffing shortages are reaching worrying levels,” said Joel McClurg, Policy and Communications Manager, Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger.
“This bill and the flexibilities within it will make an incredible impact for both families and for the School Nutrition programs that serve our students. As we recover from the many impacts of COVID, the extension of waivers ensures access to meals for more students, ensures students can focus on learning, and helps ensure the sustainability of meal programs that are experiencing unprecedented supply chain and funding challenges,” said Erika Edwards, Public Policy and Legislation Chair, CO School Nutrition Association.
Under the bill, the end-date of the program would extend from June 30, 2022 to September 30, 2023.
The bill is supported by leading Colorado anti-hunger organizations, including Nourish Colorado, The Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger, The Colorado Food Cluster, Hunger Free Colorado, Feeding Colorado, and Colorado School Nutrition Association.
Last month, Bennet urged U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to extend USDA support for schools to continue expanded meal programs through the Fiscal Year 2022 spending package.
Dozens of Colorado communities and school districts also support the extension, including Arapahoe County/Englewood Schools, Colorado Springs SD 11, Greeley Evans District 6, Pueblo City SD #60, Durango School District 9R, El Paso County School District 49, Douglas County School District, Park County School District RE2, Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Department of Education School Nutrition Unit, Colorado School Nutrition Association, the Denver Mayor’s Office, and many more.The bill text is available HERE.