BIPARTISAN BILL TO EXTEND SCHOOL AND SUMMER MEAL WAIVERS TO FEED CHILDREN
Program Set to Expire June 30th if Not Extended
WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in introducing the Support Kids Not Red Tape Act, which would extend USDA school meal waivers from June 30, 2022 to September 30, 2023. These waivers have been crucial to helping schools and organizations feed children throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. With most schools still facing challenges as they return to normal operations, the flexibilities the waivers provide give our schools and summer meal programs much-needed support to deal with ongoing food service issues and keep kids fed. The bill will also help schools transition back to normal meal operations under the National School Lunch Program. USDA requested this authority be extended in the omnibus.
“School meals have been a lifeline for millions of students throughout the pandemic, and we can’t allow bureaucratic red tape to get in the way of providing free, nutritious meals to our kids. Our bill would extend the USDA school meal flexibilities through this summer and the next school year to make sure that no kid goes hungry while schools and families continue recovering from COVID-19,” said Murphy.
“For many students, school meals are their only source for a nutritious meal. We need to remove barriers forcing so many kids into hunger. This bill extends the lifeline that enables students to stay healthy and grow intellectually and physically while providing sorely needed relief to so many families struggling to make ends meet,” said Blumenthal.
“We should make it easier for kids to get the meals they need – not harder. Our bill cuts red tape and keeps the priority on giving children the healthy meals they need and deserve,” said Stabenow. “As we come out of this pandemic, schools are doing their best – but it takes time for them to transition back to their operations before COVID. We can’t let hungry kids get caught in the middle. Without this support, up to 30 million kids who get food at school will see their essential breakfast and lunch meals disrupted. And millions of hungry kids who rely on summer meals may have nowhere to go to get food.”
In addition to MurphyandStabenow, this legislation is cosponsored by 50 members of Congress including U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Alex Padilla (D-Cslif.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Angus King (I-Maine), Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.),Tim Kaine (D-Va.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).
Anti-hunger and nutrition advocates reiterated the importance of these flexibilities and applauded the senators’ bill to keep critical flexibilities for school nutrition programs to feed children.
“School meal programs, a crucial source of nutritional support for millions of families nationwide, face tremendous immediate and long-term challenges in the absence of these child nutrition waivers,” said Beth Wallace, president of the School Nutrition Association. “Acute supply chain disruptions, persistent labor shortages and escalating costs make it impossible for these programs to return to normal operations next school year. This legislation is absolutely critical to sustaining school meal programs, ensuring children have access to nutritious school meals and preventing substantial financial losses for schools nationwide.”
“Without Congressional action, the child nutrition waivers will end on June 30, 2022, causing millions of children to face a hunger cliff when they lose access to summer and school meals. Furthermore, schools and community-based organizations that feed our nation’s children need time to recover from the impact of the pandemic,” said Luis Guardia, president of the Food Research & Action Center. “We applaud Senator Stabenow for her leadership on this issue and strongly endorse this bill which would extend waiver authority through September 30, 2023. Hungry children can’t wait.”
“As our country continues to experience challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including supply chain and labor shortages as well as increased food costs, access to healthful school meals remains of the utmost importance,” said Kevin L. Sauer, registered dietitian nutritionist and the 2021-2022 President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Without crucial waivers in place, more children will be at risk for food insecurity and schools will no longer have flexibilities they badly need to operate successful, financially solvent programs. The Academy thanks and supports Sen. Stabenow, who is championing the Support Kids Not Red Tape Act, which would ensure continued access to healthful meals for students.”
“The sooner the USDA is authorized to extend child nutrition waivers, the sooner schools and community organizations can plan meal programs for summer and next school year,” said Lisa Davis, senior vice president of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. “Schools and community meal providers continue to face extreme pandemic-related challenges like supply chain disruptions, rising food prices and staffing shortages. Without waivers, they will have a difficult time responding to these challenges in real-time, impacting their ability to safely and effectively reach kids with the nutrition they need and stunting their ability to transition to normal operations as those challenges subside.”
“Nearly 12 million children struggle to know where their next meal will come from, disrupting their ability to reach their full potential. Fortunately, child nutrition waivers have helped provide year-round access to much-needed nutrition. If the waivers aren’t extended, millions of children will lose that access, with Black, Latino, and Native American children, and children in rural areas, being hit hardest,” said Vince Hall, chief government relations officer, Feeding America. “Because of the delay in extending the waivers, some site sponsors will have to close summer and after-school meal sites, translating to taking away meals that families are relying on to keep their kids nourished. Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, applauds the introduction of this bill to extend child nutrition waivers, continuing this critical lifeline for children. We urge Congress to act immediately to ensure our children don’t face hunger this summer and beyond.”
A broad spectrum of groups sent in letters to Congress to extend the child nutrition waiver authority. Letters included:
- Nearly 2,000 anti-hunger, nutrition, education, children’s, school, preschool, and out of school providers, faith groups and industry groups, among others, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
- Mayors Alliance to End Childhood Hunger, which includes representatives from 47 towns;
- General Mills, and
- 23 groups, including the School Nutrition Association, School Superintendents Association, National Education Association, National PTA, and American Commodity Distribution Alliance, among others.
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