WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) joined Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in introducing the Support Kids Not Red Tape Act.
The bill extends USDA school meal flexibilities from June 30, 2022 to September 30, 2023. These flexibilities have been crucial to feeding children throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. With 90% of our schools still facing many challenges as they return to normal operations, these flexibilities give our schools and summer meal programs much-needed support to deal with ongoing food service issues and keep kids fed. The bill will also help schools transition back to normal meal operations under the National School Lunch Program. USDA requested this authority be extended in the FY22 omnibus/Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022.
“No child should go hungry. But for many struggling families providing consistent and healthy meals can be a daily struggle. These challenges are only worsened when school lets out for the summer. To fix this problem, we must keep working to ensure that every child’s needs are met year-round,” said Senator Van Hollen. “That’s why we’ve introduced this legislation to ensure USDA can provide the flexibility necessary for our schools to continue these programs to meet the needs of our communities and help reduce child hunger in Maryland and across the country.”
“The pandemic has heightened financial hardships and many families are still facing food insecurity,” said Senator Cardin. “No matter if a child is in school or on summer break, they deserve access to healthy and nutritious meals. Healthy options are essential to development and will help prevent chronic illnesses, maintain energy levels and stabilize moods. I will continue to work to provide our local school systems with the flexibilities they need to support the more than 43 percent of Maryland students who count on these school meals.”
“We should make it easier for kids to get the meals they need – not harder. Our bill cuts red tape and keeps the priority on giving children the healthy meals they need and deserve,” said Senator Stabenow. “As we come out of this pandemic, schools are doing their best – but it takes time for them to transition back to their operations before COVID. We can’t let hungry kids get caught in the middle. Without this support, up to 30 million kids who get food at school will see their essential breakfast and lunch meals disrupted. And millions of hungry kids who rely on summer meals may have nowhere to go to get food.”
“For far too many children in Alaska and across the nation, hunger is a daily reality. For many students, the meals served at school, and in summer or afterschool programs, may be the only meals they can count on,” said Senator Murkowski. “Following the widespread disruptions caused by COVID, life is beginning to feel more ‘normal’ for some. However, many Alaskans are still working to overcome the economic fallout from the pandemic and many schools continue to struggle with supply shortages and higher prices. That’s why I’m glad to join Senator Stabenow and my Senate colleagues in a push to allow USDA to extend vital support for school nutrition programs and preventing barriers that may prevent students from receiving a healthy meal.”
Senator Van Hollen previously wrote to the Appropriations Committee leadership in support of extending USDA’s waiver authority for school and child nutrition programs to ensure schools can continue to adapt to the shifting COVID-19 pandemic and help alleviate hunger for millions of children and their families. The request was ultimately struck down, as Republicans blocked the measure.
In addition to Senators Van Hollen, Cardin, Stabenow, and Murkowski, this legislation is cosponsored by Senators Heinrich (D-N.M.), Collins (R-Maine), Manchin (D-W.Va.), Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Casey (D-Pa.), Smith (D-Minn.), Brown (D-Ohio), Baldwin (D-Wis.), Booker (D-N.J.), Lujan (D-N.M.), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Warnock (D-Ga.), Markey (D-Mass.), Hirono (D-Hawaii), Duckworth (D-Ill.), Sanders (I-Vt.), Reed (D-R.I.), Leahy (D-Vt.), Wyden (D-Ore.), Shaheen (D-N.H.), Hassan (D-N.H.), Bennet (D-Colo.), Merkley (D-Ore.), Warren (D-Mass.), Padilla (D-Calif.), Warner (D-Va.), Murray (D-Wash.), Coons (D-Del.), Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Carper (D-Del.), Schatz (D-Hawaii), Peters (D-Mich.), King (I-Maine.), Feinstein (D-Calif.), Rosen (D-Nev.), Menendez (D-N.J.), Kaine (D-Va.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Murphy (D-Conn.), Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kelly (D-Ariz.), Sinema (D-Ariz.), Ossoff (D-Ga.), Tester (D-Mont.), Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Cantwell (D-Wash).