06.23.22

What People Are Saying: Keep Kids Fed Act of 2022

WASHINGTON — On June 21, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (VA-03) and Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (NC-05), along with Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR), announced an agreement to help school and summer providers keep kids fed. The Keep Kids Fed Act (H.R. 8150) will provide important funding and flexibility for communities to provide children healthy meals this summer and provide support to schools and daycares to respond to supply chain challenges and high food costs for the coming school year.

Here is what leading child nutrition experts and advocates have to say about the Keep Kids Fed Act

School Nutrition Association President Beth Wallace, MBA, SNS“School nutrition professionals have withstood crippling supply chain breakdowns, rising prices and labor shortages in their efforts to provide students healthy meals, at a time when families are struggling with higher costs. With crucial federal waivers on the verge of expiring, this agreement offers school meal programs a lifeline to help build back toward normal operations.

“SNA members are extremely grateful to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member John Boozman, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott and Ranking Member Virginia Foxx for their consistent efforts to support school meal programs and to Congressional leaders for bringing this critical agreement to the floors.

“SNA appreciates ongoing efforts of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to address persistent supply chain challenges and USDA’s commitment to avert penalties for schools unable to comply with meal pattern requirements due to these disruptions. We will continue to work with USDA next school year as we seek solutions to support school nutrition professionals and ensure the financial sustainability of meal programs for the students they serve.”

Feeding America Chief Government Relations Officer Vince Hall: “Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief network of 200 food banks, 21 statewide associations and 60,000 faith-based and non-profit partner food pantries and meal programs, applauds Congress for taking the needed steps to extend child nutrition waiver authority, which will help ensure children are able to access much-needed nutrition in the months ahead. Network food banks and partners have been asking for this continued flexibility for many months. The bi-partisan legislation, the Keep Kids Fed Act, was released today by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and John Boozman (R-AR) and Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA 03) and Virginia Foxx (R-NC 05) ahead of the June 30th deadline. The bill would provide temporary authority to USDA to provide summer meal program flexibilities, eliminate the reduced-price meal category, and increase reimbursement rates to help offset rising food costs. It will offer much needed stability, predictability, and an assurance that children will be better able to get the meals they need through the coming year. Together, these provisions will provide significant help for children who often do not know where they will get their next meal, particularly in communities of color who experience hunger at a disproportionate rate.

“Originally granted as part of the pandemic response to ensure access to meals for children in need during the school year and in the summertime, waivers allowing flexibilities for child nutrition program operators remain essential to addressing child food insecurity, particularly amid continued supply chain disruptions and ongoing barriers to reaching kids in rural areas. As it stands, schools and communities need continued flexibilities to safely plan for and offer summer meal programs and nutrition assistance during the next school year.

“For millions of school children, school meals are often their only reliable nutrition source. Feeding America stands ready to work with Congress to ensure this important bill passes both chambers and is signed by President Biden, and we look forward to working with them on future legislation to ensure child nutrition programs remain strong and responsive to local needs in the months and years ahead.”

Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) President Luis GuardiaFRAC commends the bi-partisan legislation introduced today by Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) and House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC), to help support children, families, schools, and child care providers as they struggle to recover from the fallout of the pandemic. Provisions in the Keep Kids Fed Act would increase reimbursements to schools and child care, support access to summer meals by extending the summer waivers, allow children eligible for reduced-price school meals to receive free school meals, and streamline access to healthy meals for children in family child care.    

“We and our network of anti-hunger advocates all across the country call on Congress to pass this legislation immediately as time is running out. The child nutrition waivers that have been available since the onset of the pandemic are set to expire on June 30. This legislation would help mitigate the impact of the loss of the waivers and also would be critical to supporting children’s access to summer meals and meals at childcare.   

“The provisions in the legislation are only temporary and do not go as far as we would like, but they are a critical first step to help shield some of the impact of inflation, supply chain disruptions, and labor shortages.  

Still, more must be done. FRAC looks forward to working with Congress to make much-needed, long-term improvements to the child nutrition programs to more fully address our nation’s hunger crisis.   

“Hungry children can’t wait."

No Kid Hungry Senior Vice President Lisa Davis: “We are grateful that a deal has come together to help address the immense challenges facing schools and community organizations working tirelessly to feed kids this summer and during the school year. This issue couldn’t be more urgent with waivers expiring in nine days and summer meals programs already up and running.“Time is of the essence, especially for those operating summer meals sites without the certainty and flexibility of the waivers who will face difficulties turning on a dime. We know these waivers are needed and that they work. The reach of the summer meals program increased dramatically with them, doubling in 2021 and even tripling in 2020.

“While these waivers don’t solve supply chain issues, lower the rising cost of food and gas, or solve our nation’s inflation problem, they do help soften their impact on schools and community organizations and, ultimately, keep kids fed and nourished. 

“As we know with legislation like this, there can be miles to go before it gets across the finish line. We urge Congress to move quickly on the Keep Kids Fed Act before nationwide child nutrition waivers expire on June 30."

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President Ellen R. Shanley“Studies have shown that the school cafeteria is the healthiest place for children to eat in the U.S. The Keep Kids Fed Act therefore is more important than ever in providing parents and guardians with the assurance that their children are receiving healthful meals to fuel them throughout this summer as well as the next school year.

"The Academy and our members have tirelessly advocated for the continuation of child nutrition waivers as the country continues to grapple with ongoing supply chain and labor shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as inflation.

"A better solution is to make school meals free for all children, all year," Shanley said. "The Academy has long advocated for Healthy School Meals for All and will continue to educate members of Congress on its benefits. We look forward to working with Congress on a permanent solution to issues of nutrition security for all, particularly for children."

Domestic Child Nutrition at Save the Children Domestic Child Nutrition at Save the Children Cassidy Pont: “We wholeheartedly welcome the release of the bipartisan and budget-neutral Keep Kids Fed Act, which will temporarily extend some child nutrition waivers, preventing nearly 7 million children from losing access to nutritious meals this summer alone. In the midst of increasing supply chain challenges and rising food and gas prices, this support will be a life-line for school nutrition programs and child care providers, enabling them to stay financially afloat while continuing to serve children the nutritious foods they need to grow, develop, learn and thrive. While we are disappointed the legislation doesn’t extend the USDA Secretary’s full waiver authority through the next school year, the Keep Kids Fed Act is an important step in the right direction. We urge Congress to act quickly to pass this legislation. If not, millions of children could go hungry, and we cannot let that happen.”

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