Tell Congress to Improve Access to Summer Meals
Child Nutrition Reauthorization has to be done right
The Child Nutrition Programs are due for reauthorization, with opportunities to reduce summer hunger among children already eligible for free and reduced meals during the school year. NSLA strongly supports the Summer Meals Act of 2019 (S. 1908/H.R. 2818) which ensures children access nutritious meals in a safe setting, with opportunities for learning and enrichment at the same time. This bill strengthens the existing Summer Nutrition Programs, which require food to be served at a site, such as at a school, Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, park, community center, or religious institution. Over 90 percent of these sites provide programming or enrichment activities in addition to meals. The programs operate in rural, suburban and urban communities, and the improvements proposed in the Summer Meals Act would expand the number of children receiving summer meals at sites and improve program operations.
The Summer Meals Act:
- Allows community-based sponsors to feed children year-round seamlessly through one administrative process, which will dramatically reduce paperwork and increase children’s access to meals at out-of-school time programs year-round (currently summer and afterschool programs must operate through separate programs);
- Allows all sites to serve a third meal or two meals and a snack (most are limited to two meals) which is important for programs that operate for a full day and sites that have programs for kids during the day and for teens at night;
- Lowers the current area eligibility criteria so that sites can operate in areas with 40 percent of the children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals (as opposed to the current threshold of 50 percent). This would be particularly effective in rural areas and would align the eligibility for summer meals with federal education funding for summer programs, like 21st CCLC.
- Provides funding for transportation grants in underserved areas.
In contrast, other pending legislation gives states the option to provide nutritional resources through a Summer EBT card, and the option to allow meals to be sent home with children or delivered to their homes instead of consumed at a summer food site. While appropriate for some very rural places or instances where families are unable to access congregate feeding sites, there are concerns that this legislation would create a disincentive to programs seeking to expand summer learning sites to rural areas, and could make it difficult for summer learning programs to continue to procure meals from food banks.
You can make a difference: call on Congress to support summer meals by passing the Summer Meals Act.