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WASHINGTON—The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee today approved a comprehensive reauthorization of the nation’s child nutrition programs that includes legislation authored by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) to reform the summer meals program. 

“As a former school board member, I’ve seen first-hand that nutrition is critical to our children’s ability to thrive in and out of the classroom. For too many of our nation’s children, summer can be the hungriest time of the year. That’s why we need a summer meals program that works in urban, suburban and rural areas. The provisions included in this bill will give Arkansas and all states the flexibility they need to choose what makes the most sense in their communities, so that children in rural and hard to reach communities are getting the nutrition they need in the summer,” Boozman said during committee consideration of the bill.

Introduced as the Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act, Boozman’s legislation would provide states with two additional options for addressing child hunger during the summer by:

  • Authorizing summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) and providing eligible families up to $30 per summer month per child to purchase eligible food items. In United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) pilot programs, Summer EBT reduced the most severe forms of food insecurity for children by 33 percent.
  • Allowing states the flexibility to choose what makes the most sense in their communities by giving states the option to provide summer meals without a centralized feeding site when certain conditions exist in rural and high poverty areas. 

USDA operates its Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to offer eligible children from low-income families free lunch and snacks in the summer.

Over 50,000 Arkansas children receive summer meals through this program and Boozman noted that significant percentage of Arkansas children live in communities that are not able to operate an open summer meals site.

“I am pleased that my bill was incorporated into the larger reauthorization as the summer meals program is in desperate need of reform. We have seen firsthand in Arkansas how its one-size-fits-all approach is at odds with the very different challenges our communities face. By giving state’s flexibility to choose the approach that makes the most sense for each individual community, we are taking more effective steps toward addressing hunger and malnourishment, even when class is not in session,” Boozman, a co-chairman of the Senate Hunger Caucus said.

Boozman also praised the hard work committee members put into the larger reauthorization bill.

“This is not a perfect bill, but this bill will result in significant improvements to child nutrition programs by strengthening fraud prevention, providing much needed flexibility and improving the effectiveness of these programs,” Boozman said.

The committee-passed bill, the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016 reforms and reauthorizes child nutrition programs under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 including the National School Lunch Program, Summer Food Service Program and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).