07/30/2020 - Today, Rep. Bobby Scott (Va.) introduced the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act, a bill intended to expand access to free school meals for all children during the COVID-19 pandemic and to prevent the collapse of school nutrition programs.
Skyrocketing unemployment rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic have left families wondering how they will continue to make ends meet, including providing healthful meals to their children. This is particularly concerning for the communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and are far more likely to experience food insecurity. These unprecedented levels of economic hardship will likely result in increased enrollment in school-based federal nutrition assistance programs.
This coupled with the uncertainty and inconsistency of school reopening in the fall has made the need for a universal school meal program imperative. This legislation will:
- All students will temporarily be made eligible for free school meals during the 2020-2021 school year through the School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program;
- Due to the flexibility granted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 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 meal services, can serve all children without having to certify the eligibility of each individual child;
- Under the Summer Food Service Programs and the Summer Seamless Option, schools and nonprofit community partners can operate off-site meal services anywhere in the country, 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 At-Risk Afterschool Program or the NSLP Afterschool Snack Program, without having to certify the eligibility of each individual child; and
- All CACFP day care homes will be eligible for reimbursement at the Tier 1 level.
The Academy was featured as a proud supporter of this important piece of legislation in Rep. Scott's press release, which included the following quote:
"The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics believes that school meals are as important to learning as textbooks and pencils," said Academy President Linda T. Farr, RDN, CSOWM, LD, FAND. "In the midst of uncertain school reopening plans as a result of the COVID-19 national emergency, the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act will guarantee all children have access to high-quality, nutritious school meals. The Academy applauds Rep. Scott and others for prioritizing the health and well-being of children in the wake of the pandemic. This effort is particularly important given that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted marginalized and minoritized communities as well as those with underlying diet-related diseases."
For more information about the Academy's policy recommendations for next school year, download the newly released COVID-19 school reopening issue brief.