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Nebraska bill would require state to sign up for Summer EBT

Also in this week’s K-12 legislative update: a federal bill aims to beef up cybersecurity in the agriculture and food sectors and a New York lawmaker renews push for universal free school meals.
A student grabs a piece of fruit
A Nebraska bill would require the state to participate in the USDA's Summer EBT program. | Photo: Shutterstock

This week, a bill introduced in Nebraska would require the state to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer EBT program and New York anti-hunger advocates continue their push for implementing a universal free school meals program in the state. In addition, two senators have introduced a federal bill that aims to strengthen cybersecurity in the agriculture and food sectors.

Here’s the latest in K-12 nutrition legislation.

Nebraska would be required to sign up for Summer EBT under new bill

A Nebraska bill would require the state to participate in Summer EBT, a program put on by the USDA that provides low-income families with extra funds to purchase food during the summer months while their children are out of school.

LB952 is sponsored by Sen. Jen Day, (D-Papillion) who introduced the bill after Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen announced that the state would not be participating in the program this summer.

Nebraska joins other states including Florida and South Dakota, in not participating in the program.

The USDA first introduced Summer EBT during the pandemic. It became a permanent program after the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act.

Federal bill aims to address cybersecurity threats to American agriculture

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have introduced the Farm and Food Cybersecurity Act which is intended to strengthen cybersecurity in the agriculture sector.

The bill would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to work with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to conduct and submit a study to Congress every two years that analyzes potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities in the agriculture and food sectors. In addition, the Secretary of Agriculture would also have to work with the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, as well as the Director of National Intelligence to conduct an annual cross-sector simulation exercise for food-related cyber emergencies or disruptions.

“Protecting our nation’s farms and food security against cyberattacks is a vital component of our national security, Senator Gillibrand said in a statement.“The Farm and Food Cybersecurity Act is a crucial step toward preparing our nation’s agriculture sector to respond to potential cyberattacks. I am committed to ensuring our American agriculture sector is ready to defend against these cyber threats and look forward to working with my colleagues to get this important bill passed.”

New York lawmaker renews push for universal free school meals

New York Senator Michelle Hinchey led a rally at the state capital last week to push for funding to be included in the upcoming state budget to provide universal free meals at school. 

The rally was attended by over 285 advocates from the Healthy School Meals for All NY Kids Coalition.  

New York did include funding in last year’s state budget to expand free school meal access. While Hinchey acknowledged that the funding was a step in the right direction, she said the state must still implement a permanent program that provides free school meals for all students. 

“Since we expanded Healthy School Meals last year, the transformative progress we expected is unfolding in communities across New York State,” Hinchley said in a statement. “More students have gained access to free breakfast and lunch, and with that, we’re actively breaking the stigma of food insecurity, keeping kids healthy, and helping them learn better, all while saving families money every week. We're also working to connect the dots between school cafeterias and New York farms by making sure the food students are eating is nutritious and locally grown. Every student, family, school, and community in New York should have the opportunity to benefit from School Meals for All, and we won’t stop fighting until we deliver a permanent, universal program.”

See which states currently offer universal free meals via the map below: