U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Lisa Murkowski have introduced a bill to expand K-12 students' access to summer meal programs.
The Summer Meals Act would implement several changes to these programs. If adopted, areas where at least 40% of students receive free or reduced-priced meals would be eligible for them, instead of the current threshold of 50%.
In addition, transportation grants would be provided to rural districts to help get students to meal sites, and summer nutrition program providers would be allowed to serve food to children after emergencies or disasters and get reimbursed if the meals are taken off site.
“We need to make it easier for schools and nonprofits to feed children when schools are not in session—regardless of whether it’s summer vacation, a natural disaster or a pandemic that keeps kids out of school,” Sen. Murkowski said in a statement.
The bill would also reduce paperwork for meal program sponsors and give meal sites the option of serving three meals (or two meals and a snack) to children who attend evening enrichment programs during the school year and summer.
“Learning disruptions caused by the pandemic have deepened the hunger crisis for vulnerable children who rely on school meals to keep from going hungry," Sen. Gillibrand said in a statement. "When schools are out for the summer, we must guarantee that food insecure students maintain access to nutritious food."