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Friday, August 21, 2015

FLURRY OF BILLS TO EXPAND SUMMER MEALS

The upcoming deadline to reauthorize the Health, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010  has triggered a surge of bills in Congress to give more children access to more meals during the summer.  While participation has risen in recent years, only  about 3.6 million, or 16% of the nearly 22 million children who receive free and reduced-price lunches during the school year participate in federal summer nutrition programs. One bill, co-sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), would make it easier for more  organizations to qualify to participate in summer meals programs by lowering from 50% to 40% the qualifying percentage of children living in the area served by a community-based organization or school who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches. This is the same level for summer programs that receive federal funding under Title I or 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants. The bill would also streamline the summer meals application process so children who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals during the school year and attend summer programs run by the same providers don't have to reapply. It provides transportation grants to make sure that children in rural and other underserved areas have access to summer meals, and it would reimburse summer programs for providing up to three meals a day instead of two. An identical version has been introduced in the House by Donald Young (R-AK), and Rick Larsen  (D-WA). Another bill in the House and Senate, called the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act of 2015, would give families an electronic benefit transfer card to buy food over the summer.  The cards would be loaded with $150 for each child in the family who qualifies for free and reduced-price lunch during the school year.

Source: Education Week, 8/4/15, Summer Meals Bills