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VIDEO: CHILD NUTRITION: Murray Outlines New Bill to Tackle Summer Hunger

May 21 2014

During the school year, low-income children have the opportunity to receive free or reduced-priced meals at school-- millions of these same children go hungry during summer break



Murray tells story of single mom from Washington state who struggles to provide meals for her two young children during summer months

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, Wednesday, May 21st, 2014, U.S. Senator Patty Murray delivered a speech on the Senate floor to introduce the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act, which would provide families who have children eligible for free and reduced-price school meals with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card. During the academic year, millions of kids from low-income families are able to get free or reduced-priced meals at school, so they can get the nutrition they need to learn in class. But when school lets out for the summer, many of those same kids lose access to regular meals, which leaves them without the nutrition they need to lead healthy lives. The Stop Child Summer Hunger Act is modeled on the successful Summer EBT for Children demonstration project that has been piloted in 14 sites and 10 states and Indian Tribal Organizations. This pilot has seen positive results, decreasing hunger among children by 33 percent.  During her speech, Senator Murray told the story of a single mother from Washington state who struggles to provide for her two children during the summer months.

“As adults, it is our moral responsibility to take care of our children--to make sure they can grow up healthy, and to make sure they have every opportunity to learn and thrive,” Senator Murray said on the Senate floor.  “Let’s live up to that responsibility by tackling this problem. Let’s help more kids get the nutrition they need to live healthy lives. Let’s make sure the kids, looking forward to the summer break, can enjoy it, free from hunger.”

More about the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act.

Infographic on the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act.

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks, as prepared:

“Thank you, Mr. President.

“I know that many students across the country are waiting on the edge of their seats, looking forward to school letting out for the summer break.

“But for many kids who participate in school meal programs, the summer can be an uncertain time, not knowing when or where they’ll get their next meal.

“And it can be a stressful time for those kids’ parents, who will have to stretch every last dollar to feed their family. 

“That’s a struggle Nicole – a single mom from my home state of Washington – knows all too well.

“Nicole has been unemployed for about a year.

“She has two kids – a daughter finishing kindergarten and a son finishing 5th grade.

“They have relied on SNAP benefits to help pay for groceries and school meals to help during the school year.

“But Nicole says that last summer, without school-provided meals, it was particularly difficult to put enough food on the table to feed her kids.

“Mr. President, today, I’m introducing a bill that would help families like Nicole’s and many more across the country. 

“It’s a bill to make sure more children can get the nutrition they need during the summer break. 

“When school is in session, millions of kids from low-income families can get free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program.

“But during the summer, hunger goes up by about 34 percent for families with school-age kids, according to one study.

“Right now, we do have a federal congregate summer meals program, which I have long been supportive of, called the Summer Food Service Program.

“And it is very successful in some areas of the country.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to strengthen and expand this program, to ensure it is reaching as many children as possible.

“But in a study from 2012, summer congregate meals programs only reached about 14 percent of the students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals during the school year.

“That adds up to tens of millions of kids across the country who didn’t have access to meal programs in the summer.

“And in my home state of Washington, just 9.8 percent of those kids participated in 2012.

“That means those kids are more likely to deal with hunger or food insecurity.

“Mr. President, that’s unacceptable.

“When it comes to making sure our kids grow up with the nutrition they need to learn and thrive, there are no excuses.

“We must do more to fight summer hunger.

“That’s why I’m introducing a bill called the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act.

“The bill is simple.

“By providing families with an EBT card, it would help them afford groceries during the summer months to replace the meals that kids would otherwise get at school.

“And it’s based on a successful pilot program that has been proven to decrease hunger by 33 percent.

“And some of the demonstration projects had participation rates as high as 90 percent.

“Scaling up this program with the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act would help more children get the nutrition they need in the summer months.

“And, the bill is fully paid for by closing a tax loophole that encourages U.S. companies to shift jobs and profits offshore.

“From my perspective, that’s a fair trade.

“This bill would encourage companies to keep jobs and profits here in America, all while helping more kids get the nutrition they need during the summer.

“Mr. President, fighting hunger – especially among kids – is an issue that’s very important to me.

“When I was 15, my dad, who had fought in World War II, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

“Within just a few years, he could no longer work.

“My mom found a job.

“But it didn’t pay nearly enough to support seven kids and a husband with a growing stack of medical bills. 

“So, for several months, we relied on food stamps. It wasn’t much. But we were able to get by.

“So, Mr. President, I know how hard it is for families who are struggling to put food on the table.

“As adults, it is our moral responsibility to take care of our children--to make sure they can grow up healthy, and to make sure they have every opportunity to learn and thrive.

“Let’s live up to that responsibility by tackling this problem. 

“Let’s help more kids get the nutrition they need to live healthy lives.

“Let’s make sure the kids, looking forward to the summer break, can enjoy it, free from hunger.

“Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.”