What’s at Stake?
Children consume up to 50 percent of their total daily calories at school during the school year thanks to school breakfast and lunch. When school is out in the summertime or when schools are otherwise closed, millions of kids no longer have access to meal assistance provided in a school setting. For too many children, summer means the lethargy and listlessness that accompany unfilled bellies.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization provides an important opportunity to strengthen the feeding programs that help keep children fed during the summer months. Through CNR, Congress can ensure more children can get the meals they need to grow and thrive when class is not in session by pursuing a two-pronged strategy that makes it easier for communities to establish summer feeding sites in underserved areas and also gives states the flexibility to reach and feed kids in alternate ways.
Ensuring no kid goes hungry is especially critical as child hunger dramatically rises amid a pandemic and economic downturn. In almost every county in the United States, children experience food insecurity at higher rates than the general population. Feeding America estimates that 13 million children (1 in 6 kids) may experience food insecurity due to the pandemic in 2021.
What’s Feeding America Doing?
Feeding America is fighting to:
- Strengthen states’ ability to reach kids during the summer by…
- Streamlining regulations for community-based providers so that they can feed children year-round.
- Aligning the area eligibility requirement for summer feeding and educational programs to allow more learning programs to offer meals in the summer.
- Provide alternate strategies to serve children most likely to go hungry by…
- Providing a grocery card to families with children who are low-income when schools are closed (e.g. during the summer, extended school breaks, and unexpected school closures) to supplement their household food budgets.
- Allowing kids to consume meals off-site, which would enable communities to adopt innovative program models to reach children who lack access to a summer feeding site.
- The United States Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) represents a strong public-private partnership to help feed low-income children during the summer months. The program leverages the staff and facilities of thousands of charitable organizations across the nation, including food banks, to offer summer feeding and enrichment programs.
- While the SFSP is intended to fill the summer meal gap, it serves just a fraction of those in need. In 2019, before the pandemic, fewer than 17 percent of children – less than 4 million of the nearly 23 million children who are low-income eating free or reduced-price lunch during the 2019-2020 school year – were accessing a summer meal.
- Many children who are low-income have trouble accessing a summer feeding site. Some children are too young to walk to sites or are unable to travel across highways, for example, while their parents are at work.