WASHINGTON – Sen.
Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today joined Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and
several colleagues to introduce the Hunger-Free
Summer for Kids Act to add flexibility to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which offers
children free lunch and snacks in the summer. The bipartisan
legislation will apply lessons learned from the pandemic
to existing child nutrition programs to make them more
efficient, flexible and better equipped to reach children in need
during the summer months.
pandemic, USDA continued to answer the call and feed kids around the country in
new and innovative ways. We should take lessons learned from the pandemic and implement
these policies moving forward so that kids in communities of all sizes continue
to have access to quality meals,” Grassley
said. “I’m glad to join this bipartisan, commonsense bill to ensure our
kids are fed over the summer break.”
The Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act gives
states additional options to reach hungry children in communities without a centralized
meal site during the summer, some of which mirror authorities Congress established
to help the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) carry out this
mission while students received instruction virtually during the
Current summer meals regulations
require children to travel to a central location and eat
together. This works well in some communities. However, in rural areas, it can
be difficult for children to reach a site, if one even exists. In
suburban and urban areas, inclement weather or violence can keep children from
these sites and cause them to miss meals.
Summer for Kids Act proposes two alternative options states can
utilize through the program. The first would allow for meals to be consumed off-site
through innovative means like mobile feeding and backpack meal programs.
The other option would authorize the summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT)
program which would provide eligible families $30 per summer month per
child to purchase eligible food items from Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP) approved retailers. In USDA pilot programs, summer
EBT was shown to reduce child hunger by over 30 percent.
Similar steps taken during the pandemic to reduce
exposure risks for COVID-19 proved quite successful in maximizing
participation. For instance, the Families
First Coronavirus Response Act authorized nationwide waivers allowing
off-site meal distribution to a parent or guardian to take home to their
children. Additionally, the Pandemic EBT program is essentially the same
approach this bill proposes for families to use during the summer.
Grassley, Boozman and Leahy, Sens. Mitch
McConnell (R-Ky.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo), John Cornyn
(R-Texas), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Cindy Hyde-Smith
(R-Miss.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Roy Blunt
(R-Mo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) all
joined in introducing the bill.
The Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act has
the support of leading national advocacy groups including Feeding America,
Share Our Strength, Tusk Philanthropies, Bread for the World, MAZON: A Jewish
Response to Hunger, the Alliance to End Hunger and Save the Children.