CNR Update: Summer Meals Act Would Help Close Hunger Gap for Millions of Children

From the Food Research and Action Center (http://www.frac.org):

Washington, D.C. – March 3, 2015 – Child nutrition program reauthorization efforts have taken a strong step forward with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introducing The Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S. 613). This bill would significantly improve the reach of the Summer Nutrition Programs so more children could eat healthy meals in supportive recreational and other program. The bill would also simplify the administration of the program for sponsors.

“The Summer Meals Act would help close the hunger gap that many children face when schools close for the summer, and they lose access to school breakfast, school lunch, and afterschool snacks,” said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). “It also strengthens the links between summer feeding and the good community programs that children need when school is out. FRAC’s research shows that only one in seven children who needs summer food is getting it. The improvements included in this bill, especially the improvement of the area eligibility test, would help more communities serve summer meals.”

The bill proposes the following improvements:

  • Improve the area eligibility test to allow community-based organizations to participate if 40 percent of the children in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Currently, a summer meal site must meet a 50 percent threshold which keeps many communities from participating. To see how this would help in each state, FRAC has developed maps for every state to show how many more areas would be served.
  • Allow local government agencies and private nonprofit organizations to feed children year-round – afterschool and in the summer – through a single Summer Food Service Program process. This would remove duplicative paperwork and confusing administrative rules that discourage participation.
  • Provide funding for transportation grants to fund innovative approaches and mobile meal trucks. Transportation is one of the biggest barriers to participation, especially in rural areas.
  • Allow all sites to serve a third meal. Many summer meal sites provide child care to working parents and run all day and for extended hours, but are only able to serve a maximum of two meals with federal funds.

The Summer Nutrition Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program over the summer period, provide free meals at participating summer sites at schools, parks, other public agencies, and nonprofits for children under 18. They provide children the nutritious meals they need to keep hunger at bay and remain healthy throughout the summer. They also support summer programs and help draw children into educational, enrichment, and recreational activities that keep them learning, engaged, active, and safe during school vacation.

A companion bill is expected to be re-introduced shortly in the House. To learn more about the Summer Meals Act and to urge your Senators to support this bill, visit FRAC’s Legislative Action Center.

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