U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined 30 of their Senate colleagues in a push to extend the child nutrition waivers that have kept many children from going hungry throughout the pandemic, both during the school year and in the summer.
In a letter, the Senators stress the need for Congress to extend these programs before the waivers expire on June 30, 2022, as well as create a nationwide Summer EBT program and expand community eligibility – a flexible meal service option for school districts in low-income areas.
“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the child nutrition programs and the role they play in keeping hunger at bay for millions of children across the country. As schools close for summer across the country, families will soon lose access to free school meals and be faced with the prospect of increased food insecurity, weight gain, and learning disruptions,” the senators wrote. “As Congress develops legislation to support families impacted by high food costs, we must help ease the burden of these challenges and ensure that these child nutrition programs can fully meet children’s nutritional needs while they are at school, afterschool and summer programs, and childcare.”
“More must be done to fuel children’s health and learning as millions of families continue to struggle with the fallout of COVID-19. Extending the child nutrition waivers, expanding community eligibility, and creating a nationwide Summer EBT program are surefire ways for our nation’s children to have access to the nutrition they need to grow and thrive in the classroom and beyond,” said Luis Guardia, president of the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). “We call on Congress to act quickly and include these provisions in any upcoming legislative vehicle. Hungry children can’t wait.”
“In a typical year, Boys & Girls Clubs across the country serve 95 million meals and snacks to kids at no cost. Clubs also continually adapt to support the needs of communities during times of crisis including during the peak of the pandemic, providing more than 24 million meals to nearly a half million families nationwide,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “Extending the child nutrition waivers is critical to support the essential needs of kids, families, and communities still recovering from the economic and social impacts of the last two years. We urge Congress to make child nutrition and hunger a priority by extending the waiver authority and investing in programs that keep youth healthy, safe, and learning.”
“Summer is underway and YMCAs across the country are working to get healthy meals to every child in need. This summer, only 1 in 7 eligible children will have access to these meals, and Congress’ unwillingness to extend child nutrition waivers beyond June 30 is hampering our ability to provide meals when kids need them most,” said Suzanne McCormick, president and CEO of YMCA of the USA. “We need to be able to use every possible tool to feed kids this summer, so the recommendations outlined by Senator Gillibrand and her colleagues cannot be passed soon enough. We are hopeful Congress works to enact these provisions, which will help ensure that every child has a summer free of hunger.”