WASHINGTON — Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, alongside colleagues including Robert “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), introduced legislation Thursday that would make all students eligible for free school meals during the 2020-2021 school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
According to Fudge, school meal program directors reported a median loss of $200,000 per district with an estimated loss of as much as $2.35 million in larger districts as a direct result of the pandemic. Fudge said that the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act would help save the programs from insolvency.
The Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act would enact the following measures if passed:
- 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.
“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,” said Rep. Fudge in a press release. “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.”
The legislation is co-led by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-02), and Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-05). It is co-sponsored by Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, as well as 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).