WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) joined 32 of her Senate colleagues, in a letter led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), to extend child nutrition waivers ahead of their expiration and enact a robust set of child nutrition priorities in any upcoming legislative vehicles. As school summer break is already underway in many states, it is vital that Congress extends and expands these programs as low-income families are facing a steep benefits cliff when the waivers expire on June 30, 2022.
In the letter, the senators call to extend child nutrition waivers, create a nationwide Summer EBT program, and expand community eligibility (CEP), a flexible meal service option for school districts in low-income areas. These provisions are critical to fighting child hunger and food insecurity.
“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the child nutrition programs and the role they play in keeping hunger at bay for millions of children across the country. As schools close for summer across the country, families will soon lose access to free school meals and be faced with the prospect of increased food insecurity, weight gain, and learning disruptions,” said the senators. “As Congress develops legislation to support families impacted by high food costs, we must help ease the burden of these challenges and ensure that these child nutrition programs can fully meet children’s nutritional needs while they are at school, afterschool and summer programs, and childcare.”
Earlier this year, Senator Hirono cosponsored legislation to extend U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) school and summer meal flexibilities to September 30, 2023. She also led the Hawaii delegation in urging the USDA to extend pandemic-related child nutrition waivers to prevent thousands of children and families from being forced into food insecurity. In April, Senator Hirono met Hawaii Department of Education officials to discuss the need to extend flexibilities that have allowed schools to continue feeding students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
This letter is also signed by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Angus King (I-ME), Tina Smith (D-MN), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Gary Peters (D-MI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), and Chris Murphy (D-CT).
This letter is endorsed by Food Research & Action Center, YMCA of the USA, Afterschool Alliance, Boys & Girls Club of America, Feeding America, School Nutrition Association, American Heart Association, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, First Focus Campaign for Children, MomsRising, Center for Science in the Public Interest, National Parent Teacher Association, National Farm to School Network, School Superintendents Association, Save the Children, National Education Association, National Center for Health Research, Healthy Food America, Food Corps, Community Food Advocates, National CACFP Association, Society of Behavioral Medicine, Center for Food Equity & Economic Development, California Association of Food Banks, Healthy Schools Campaign, Voices for Georgia’s Children, and Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network.
The full text of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, and Leader McCarthy,
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the child nutrition programs, and the role they play in keeping hunger at bay for millions of children across the country. As schools closed across the country, families faced the same challenges they face every summer when they lose access to free school meals: increased food insecurity, weight gain, and learning disruptions.
As the Senate develops legislation to support families being impacted by high food costs and provide pandemic relief, we ask that it include the following three things in any upcoming packages to help ensure that the child nutrition programs are able to support recovery from the impact of the pandemic. School children have to have access to the nutrition they need to grow and thrive while they are at school and during the summer. These provisions will also set the stage for a much stronger Child Nutrition Reauthorization that can take additional steps to ensure that the child nutrition programs are able to fully meet children’s nutritional needs while they are at school, afterschool and summer programs, and in childcare.
We look forward to working with you to include these provisions in the upcoming legislative vehicles being developed by Congress.