Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act: Ohio Rep. Fudge introduces legislation providing free meals to all students

Coronavirus

A school lunch. (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (WJW) — Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge and several other lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday that aims to provide free meals to all students amid the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a press release, the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act would provide children access to breakfast, lunch and after school snacks either in school or using a to-go or delivery option during the 2020-21 school year.

“We are one of the largest food-producing nations in the world, and yet, children in the United States are still susceptible to experiencing hunger,” Fudge said. “As many school districts move toward distance learning and modified schedules in the fall, we cannot forget about the students who rely on school meals as their only primary source of food and nutrition.  I am proud to co-introduce the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act, which will help streamline meal service for schools across the country and allow children to focus on their education, rather than the uncertainty of where they will get their next meal.  No child should have to learn on an empty stomach.”  

Fudge says school meal program directors reported an estimated loss of $200,000 per district amid the pandemic, with an estimated loss of as much as $2.35 million in larger districts. Due to these financial losses, programs are struggling to maintain services for their students.

By increasing school meal participation rates, Fudge says the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act would help save these programs from insolvency.

If passed, the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act would do the following:

  • 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 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 Rep. Robert Scott, who is among the bill’s cosponsors. “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.”

The Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act is cosponsored by Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Susan A. Davis (CA-53), Lori Trahan (MA-03), 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).

Click here to read the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act in its entirety.

For additional information on the bill, click here.

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