“Eliminating hunger and malnourishment must be a national priority. We need to provide consistency in the summer for Arkansas children who rely on the regular meals provided at school. Unfortunately, the summer meals program has a one-size-fits-all approach that does not work well for every community. Urban, suburban and rural areas face different challenges, and this legislation provides states with the flexibility to choose the approach that makes the most sense for their communities. I am committed to creating opportunities for children to access healthy, nutritious meals when class is not in session,” Boozman, a co-chairman of the Senate Hunger Caucus said.
This 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 a certain condition exists such as a rural area is not eligible to operate open summer meals site, during a time of extreme weather and when there are public safety concerns.
USDA operates its Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to offer children from low-income families free lunch and snacks in the summer.
More than 50,000 Arkansas children receive summer meals through this program. Unfortunately, 16 percent of children from low-income families live in communities that are not able to operate an open summer meals site.
Last week, during a visit to Little Rock SFSP sites, Boozman talked with Arkansas anti-hunger leaders to hear the challenges they face to meet the needs of hungry children during the summer months.
This bill has the support of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, Feeding America, Share our Strength and the Arkansas Food Bank.
“The Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act will have a significant impact on our work to end summer hunger in Arkansas, and we are grateful to Senator Boozman for his leadership. This legislation gives our state the options we need to overcome barriers and feed kids more effectively and more efficiently, no matter where they live. When our children get the nutrition they need, they feel better, learn more and grow up stronger. And that means a stronger, more productive Arkansas,” Kathy Webb, Executive Director of Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance said.
“Nutrition is critical to our children’s ability to grow and thrive. But for too many of our nation’s children, summer is a time of hardship and hunger. This bill would provide rural and hard to reach communities with innovative options to ensure more children are getting the nutrition they need in the summer. It would enable communities that are underserved by the current summer meals program to operate a summer EBT program or a non-congregate feeding program. We are proud to support this legislation which makes meaningful strides toward eliminating child hunger,” Matt Knott, President of Feeding America said.
The bill is cosponsored by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN).