Bipartisan bill introduced to expand Summer Meals Program

By Breanne Brammer

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON June 26, 2014, - A bipartisan bill introduced yesterday by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would expand the USDA Summer Nutrition Program to reach more low-income children and simplify the program's administration.

The program provides low-income children under 18, who would normally receive free or reduced school lunch, with nutritious food during the summer.

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The Summer Meals Act would allow schools with 40 percent or more students receiving free or reduced lunch to be eligible for the program. The current qualification is 50 percent.

The bill would also reduce the paperwork burden for private companies who want to partner with the government to participate in the program, provide children with transportation to summer meals sites and offer an additional meal to children attending evening school programs.

A Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) summary of the legislation says it would help combat childhood obesity and create jobs through federal funding. 

According to a FRAC report, 2013 saw the first major increase in the number of low-income children receiving summer meals in 10 years. In July 2013, the USDA Summer Nutrition Program served lunch to nearly 3 million children daily, according to the report.  

“Many children receive their only meal at school during the year, and when school is out for the summer, they go hungry,” said Gillibrand in a press release. “The bipartisan Summer Meals Act would help combat this problem by strengthening the USDA Summer Nutrition Program to help more children across America access quality meals during the summer months.”

Reps. Don Young, R-Alaska., and Rick Larsen D-Wash., will sponsor a similar bill in the House.

The bill is endorsed by more than 40 organizations including Feeding America, the American Heart Association and National Farm to School Network.

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