Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03), a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, recently joined with House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) to introduce legislation to make all students eligible for free school meals during the 2020-2021 school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act would allow all children to access breakfast, lunch, and afterschool snack programs either in school or through “grab and go” and delivery options.
“School is going to look a lot different for students this fall depending on which state they call home. For those who rely on school meals as their main source of food, that disparity could prove catastrophic. Congress has the power to ensure that our at-risk students don’t go hungry, especially if they’re required to continue distance learning. Passing this legislation is critical to keeping students fed, healthy, and engaged in their learning,” said Trahan.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated our nation’s child hunger crisis, created record high unemployment, and caused prolonged economic hardship—leaving many families struggling to cover basic essentials,” said Scott. “The Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act would help address the child hunger crisis, make it easier for schools to operate school meal programs, and provide financial relief to school meal programs that have suffered heavy losses during the pandemic. This legislation will ensure that all children will have access to nutrition during this public health emergency.”
According to the Brookings Institute, 35 percent of households with children under 18 already were experiencing food insecurity in April. As the pandemic continues to cause widespread economic hardship, experts fear that the child hunger crisis could become even worse.
School meal programs, which have suffered severe financial losses due to the pandemic, are struggling to maintain services for students. In May, program directors reported a median estimated loss of $200,000 per district, with an estimated loss of as much as $2.35 million in larger districts. By increasing school meal participation rates, the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act would help save these programs from insolvency.
The proposal would also eliminate paperwork for families and school officials, who would not have to fill out and process applications during a time of crisis.
Under the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act:
- All students will temporarily be made eligible for free school meals during the 2020-2021 school year through the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
- Due to the flexibility granted to USDA under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, free school meals will be available to students during remote learning through “grab and go” or meal delivery.
- All school districts, including those operating off-site services, can serve all children without having to certify the eligibility of each individual child.
- Anywhere in the country, schools and non-profit community partners can operate meal services, including off-site, under the Summer Food Service Programs (SFSP) and the Summer Seamless Option (SSO), where they can serve all children without having to certify the eligibility of each individual child.
- Anywhere in the country, schools and non-profit community partners will be able to serve afterschool meals and snacks, under the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) At-Risk Afterschool Program or the NSLP Afterschool Snack Program, without having to certify the eligibility of each individual child.
- All Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) day care homes will be eligible for reimbursement at the Tier 1 level.
The legislation is co-led by Representatives Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Jim McGovern (MA-02), and Ilhan Omar (MN-05). It is cosponsored by Susan A. Davis (CA-53), Joe Morelle (NY-25), Susan Wild (PA-07), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Alma Adams (NC-12), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), and Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), and Tim Ryan (OH-13).
For a list of endorsing organizations of the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act, click here.
For a fact sheet of the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act, click here.
For the bill text of the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act, click here.