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CHILD NUTRITION: Murray Introduces Bill to Fight 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’s Stop Child Summer Hunger Act is a common-sense approach to ensure kids don’t lose access to critical nutrition

(Washington, D.C.) – 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. And many go without the nutrition they need to live healthy lives. Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray introduced 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. This EBT card will provide $150, equal to about $60 per month, for each child eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, so the family can purchase groceries to replace the meals that the children would otherwise receive at school.

“Kids shouldn’t have to spend the summer months wondering when they’ll get their next meal. We have to do more to fight summer hunger,” Senator Murray said. “The bill I’m introducing – the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act – is a common-sense approach to help solve this problem. It would help families afford groceries during the summer months to replace the meals that kids would otherwise get at school. We simply cannot allow any children to miss out on vital nutrition and continue to fall through the cracks in the safety net.”

"Only a small fraction of low-income children who receive lunch assistance during the school year receive food assistance through a summer feeding program, in part because the current one-size fits all approach does not work in every community,” said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America“Communities should have the option to employ models that will best reach hungry children, and we applaud Senator Murray for introducing this important legislation to give states more flexibility."

“In the richest nation on earth, our children should not go hungry! For low-income families, summertime is often the most difficult for feeding their growing children,” said Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, National Catholic Social Justice Lobby. “This proposal is a simple AND effective way to get food to hungry children. It gives parents the ability to select good food for their children by giving them an electronic benefit card that they can use throughout the summer. This is a smart way forward to ensure that our children are nourished and cared for.”

“Pediatricians understand firsthand that childhood food insecurity and malnutrition are associated with poorer overall health, repeated hospitalizations, worse school achievement, higher rates of anxiety and depression, and behavior problems,” said James M. Perrin, MD, FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics.  “The Stop Child Summer Hunger Act will help reduce child hunger by enabling their families to replace meals during the summer months that their children would otherwise be receiving at school through the free- and reduced-lunch program. The American Academy of Pediatrics proudly endorses this legislation and commends Senator Murray for its introduction.”

“Kids can’t send hunger on summer vacation, so the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act responds to an urgent need with a common-sense response,” said First Focus Campaign for Children president Bruce Lesley. “We urge senators to support this common-sense plan to reduce childhood hunger.”

“Senator Murray’s ‘Stop Child Summer Hunger Act’ is a much needed step forward to end intolerable child hunger in the richest nation in the world,” said Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund. “With the last days of school fast approaching, many children on summer break will be left without the breakfasts and lunches that sustain them during the school year. Only 11 percent of  21 million, the number of children who benefit from the National School Lunch Program, participate in the Summer Feeding Program. Hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation. While we are fixing barriers to the national summer feeding program we must help families feed their children. The Stop Child Summer Hunger Act does that.”

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.

An existing federal program, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) attempts to fill the summer meals gap by providing funding to nonprofit, government, and religious entities to serve food in congregate settings to low-income children during summer breaks. However, while some areas of the country see great success with the SFSP, many barriers to participation in the program remain, including unfamiliarity with the program or sites, lack of transportation, and limited food distribution hours. In fact, in 2012, only about 14 percent of children who participated in free or reduced-price meals during the school year participated in summer meals programs, and fourteen states fed less than one-tenth of these low-income children through the SFSP.  Senator Murray’s Stop Child Summer Hunger Act, in conjunction with the SFSP, would ensure that children across the country don’t go hungry when school is out.

Organizations supporting the bill include:

American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Public Health Association, Bread for the World, Center for Law and Social Policy, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Children’s Defense Fund, Children’s Health Fund, Coalition on Human Needs, Congressional Hunger Center, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Feeding America, First Focus Campaign for Children, Food Research and Action Center, Friends Committee on National Legislation, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, National Education Association, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, National Title I Association, National WIC Association, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, RESULTS, Save the Children, Share Our Strength, The Episcopal Church, Union for Reform Judaism, YMCA of the USA, Children’s Alliance, Feeding Washington, Food Lifeline, Second Harvest, and Public Health Institute.

More about the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act.

Infographic on the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act.