Brown Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Increase Flexibility for Summer Meal Programs

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined a bipartisan group of senators in introducing legislation to make federal child nutrition programs more efficient, flexible and better equipped to reach children in need during the summer months. Brown’s bill, the Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act of 2019 will add flexibility to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which offers children from low-income families free lunch and snacks in the summer.

Currently, children must travel to a central location and eat their meals together. However, in rural areas, it can be difficult for children to reach a site, if a particular site even exits. And in suburban and urban areas, inclement weather or public safety concerns can keep children from these sites, causing them to miss out on a meal. By providing additional flexibility to summer food service providers and working families, this legislation will ensure that fewer children go hungry during the summer.

Ohio children should have access to nutritious meals all year-round, not just during the school year,” said Brown. “This bill would ensure children in communities across Ohio have access to healthy meals, and help to ensure no child goes hungry during the summer months.”  

The Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act of 2019 proposes two alternative options states can utilize through the program. The first would allow for meals to be consumed off-site through innovative means like mobile feeding programs and backpack meal programs. The other option would authorize the summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program which would provide eligible families $30 per summer month per child, with a maximum of $100 per child per year, to purchase eligible food items from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) approved retailers. In USDA pilot programs, summer EBT was shown to reduce child hunger by over 30 percent.

Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) —along with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and John Hoeven (R-ND) are also sponsoring the legislation.

The Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act of 2019 has the support of a number of leading national advocacy groups, including Feeding America, Share Our Strength, Alliance to End Hunger, Bread for the World, United Way and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

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