As the free school meal programs that allowed millions of students to eat for free over the past two years come to an end, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is trying to keep this vital lifeline with a new bill for struggling families going on. Used to be.
On Tuesday, an array of politicians introduced the “Keep Kids Fed Act of 2022,” a bill that aims to amend and expand pandemic-era exemptions approved by the government.
Through the Family First Coronavirus Response Act—signed into law by then-President Donald Trump—under the Child Nutrition COVID-19 Waivers Act, approved by Congress through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in March 2020—all students, their families’ financial were entitled to eat free school meals, regardless of status.
The programs will conclude on June 30.
Reimbursement rates for school meal programs were also increased, and the USDA’s summer food service program was extended to eliminate geographic requirements.
However, Congress failed to approve an extension of the exemption for another year, which was not included in the key spending bill signed by President Joe Biden on March 15. As a result of the sudden cut in exemptions, lakhs of children could go. Hungry this summer.
Those who introduced the bill were: Debbie Stabeno, President of Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and Democratic Senator of Michigan; Republican Senator John Boozman of Arkansas; House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia; and North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx.
Under the Kids Fed Act, introduced on Tuesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers demanded that the exemption be extended through the summer, allowing for food delivery and grab-and-go options for students, and that the increased reimbursement rate by 2022- 23 persists through the school. year.
Lawmakers aim to pass the measure before the exemption formally expires.
“Time is running out. My agreement with Senator Boozeman, Representative Scott and Representative Foxx will help keep the kids fed and be fully paid for,” Stabeno said in a statement after the bill’s text was released. .
“With 90 percent of our schools still facing challenges as they return to normal operation, this will give our schools and summer meal programs the much-needed support to tackle ongoing food service issues. Congress needs to pass this vital help. There is a need to act fast to do that.”
“As I go along with my school nutrition professionals, it is quite clear that they need continued flexibility to deal with supply chain issues,” Sen. Boozman said in a statement.
“I am pleased that after lengthy bipartisan negotiations we were able to come to an agreement to extend the exemption in a fully paid way.”
“The bilateral Keep Kids Fed Act will empower schools with targeted and temporary assistance to combat supply chain problems and inflation,” Rep. Foxx said in a statement.
“This budget-neutral law will also put our nation’s school nutrition programs back on the right track and prevent the enduring pandemic narrative from being used to expand school meal programs beyond their intended purpose. This law abdicates our responsibility to taxpayers.” will maintain and adhere to it.” The principle is that aid should be targeted and temporary while helping students really need them.”
However, the bill fails to detail what made the pandemic-era exemption so revolutionary, namely an indiscriminate free school meal allowance to every student regardless of their financial status and family income.
Under the proposed bill, students whose families are struggling financially will still have to apply for reimbursement of school meals, something that is believed to prevent some families from applying, because Shame and embarrassment can make parents hesitant to disclose. personal financial situation.
Representative Scott wrote on Twitter He said the bill was “as far as I want to support the student of my country” but “it is a worthwhile step,” he said.
newsweek We have reached out to Sen. Stabeno, Sen. Boozman, Rep. Scott and Rep. Foxx for comment.
A spokeswoman for the USDA newsweek How the end of the waiver will affect American families and students: “Without Congressional action, our tools to assist program operators are too limited.”
“The USDA is looking at every tool at its disposal to reduce the pandemic’s burden on school districts, but the magnitude of this problem requires Congressional action,” the spokesperson said.
“School districts and American families need relief and Congress can provide that relief. The USDA has announced a somewhat narrow program resilience That we can offer, and we stand ready to work with the states to meet local needs.
“We are also working diligently to assess how we can support school meal programs over the next school year. Our passion for serving children remains strong, and we are working to ensure that Let’s move together to ensure that the children get the nutritious food they need.”