Bennet, Agriculture Committee Advance Bill to Reauthorize Child Nutrition Programs

Bill Includes Bennet’s Bipartisan Proposal to Ensure Kids have Access to Nutritious Meals in Summer Months

Washington, D.C. - The Senate Agriculture Committee today passed a bipartisan bill to reauthorize child nutrition programs through 2020. The bill includes an expansion of the summer meals program based on Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet's bipartisan bill to make child nutrition programs more efficient and flexible and help them reach more children in need, particularly in rural communities, during the summer months when school meals are not available.

"As former school superintendent, I've seen firsthand the effect an empty stomach can have on a kid's ability to grow and succeed in school," Bennet said. "The expansion of the summer meals program we included in this bill will provide more meals to kids when school isn't in session, helping to ensure that fewer kids go hungry during the summer. It also reaches a reasonable compromise on school meal standards and will give districts more flexibility."

Federal child nutrition programs provide healthy food to more than 400,000 kids in Colorado and millions more kids across the country, including more than 350,000 Colorado kids who receive a lunch at school through the school lunch program. However, despite efforts to enroll more kids, only one in ten Colorado kids participates in the summer meals program, meaning thousands of kids are going hungry during the summer months.

Bennet introduced the Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act with Senator John Boozman (R-AR) last August. The version included in the bill advanced out of committee today would create an option to provide meals through an EBT card, giving kids $30 per month to purchase eligible foods. It also offers states the flexibility to provide summer meals in rural and other high-need areas without requiring kids to travel to a summer meals site or to eat the meal at that site.

The bill also extends eligibility for the Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program to kids under 6 years who have not yet started full-day kindergarten. Under current law, kids lose eligibility for WIC once they turn 5, leaving many children who have not yet started school without the healthy food they need to learn and grow. This important change will allow kids in Colorado to continue to receive WIC until they begin eating school meals.