Summer Update: 2015 Offering of Letters

Every five years, Congress must reauthorize domestic child nutrition programs. Photo: Joe Molieri / Bread for the World

By Alyssa Casey

School’s out for summer, but Bread for the World wants to keep you in the know on our 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children. Every five years, Congress must reauthorize domestic child nutrition programs, which includes school lunch and breakfast; afterschool, daycare, and summer meal programs; and nutrition assistance to pregnant mothers and children up to age 5. The current legislation, reauthorized in 2010, will expire September 30, 2015. 

So what is Congress doing as the expiration date nears? 

Members of Congress have introduced a series of “marker bills” – bills introduced to lay out specific priorities or suggested changes before broader legislation is drafted. The goal of a marker bill is not necessarily to become law as is, but to build support for the policy changes in the bills so they can be included in final legislation. 

Below is an update on some marker bills introduced this year that aim to increase access to nutritious food for children at risk of hunger: *

  • The Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S. 613/H.R. 1728) was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska) and Rick Larsen (D-Wash.). The bill would make it easier for current summer meal sites to serve kids by streamlining requirements and paperwork, allowing a third meal or snack for children in all-day programs, and providing transportation grants to help children in rural and underserved areas access summer meal sites.
  • The Stop Child Summer Hunger Act of 2015 (S. 1539/H.R. 2715) was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and in the House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.). This bill would help children who have difficulty accessing summer meal sites receive food at home. It provides Summer EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards, similar to pre-loaded debit cards, to low-income families that have one or more children eligible for free- or reduced-price meals during the school year.
  • The Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act (S. 1833) was introduced by U.S. Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.). There is currently no companion bill in the House. This legislation would reduce the red tape for afterschool and daycare meal providers, allow a snack or third meal to be served to children in all-day programs, and increase the rate at which the government reimburses meals to allow for more fresh and nutritious food options.
  • The Wise Investment in our Children (WIC) Act (S. 1796/H.R. 2660) was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) and in the House by Representatives by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). The WIC Act raises the eligibility age for the WIC program from 5 to 6 years old. This would close the gap for five-year-olds not yet in school because their birthday is after the official state or district cut-off date.

On September 17, the Senate Agriculture Committee will release and discuss its child nutrition bill. As members of Congress return to their districts for August recess, remind them that feeding our children is a top priority. You can email your member individually or contact your regional organizer about meetings or events happening in your area. Urge your members of Congress to make sure children at risk of hunger receive the healthy meals they need to learn and grow!

Alyssa Casey is the government relations coordinator at Bread for the World.

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