The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce are simultaneously working on the Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S.613/H.1728). This effort is part of a larger reauthorization of child nutrition legislation and would strengthen the federal Summer Nutrition Programs (part of the National School Lunch Program) by improving the efficiency of summer meals and ensuring greater access to this vital program. While neither the House nor Senate has brought this legislation to the floor, staff are optimistic that leaders would like to complete the child nutrition reauthorization work before the August recess.
The Summer Food Service Program Ensures Kids Don’t Go Hungry in the Summer
Summer food sites affiliated with the Summer Food Service Program ensure that students who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals during the school year do not go hungry during the summer months. Schools, recreation centers, libraries, and youth-serving community-based organizations all serve as summer feeding sites. Most sites also offer educational or enrichment activities that keep students active, engaged, and learning during the summer.
According to the Food Research and Action Center, the Summer Nutrition Programs served nearly three million children each day in the summer of 2013, and participation is on the rise. However, only one child in seven is eligible for the program received summer meals due to administrative, transportation, and outreach barriers.
The Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S.613/H.1728) would strengthen the federal Summer Nutrition Programs (part of the National School Lunch Program) by improving the efficiency of summer meals and ensuring greater access to this vital program.
By lowering the area eligibility threshold from 50 percent low-income to 40 percent, the Summer Meals Act tackles two important challenges:
Aligns with the 40 percent threshold for the 21st CCLC program, removing administrative barriers for providers.
Ensures that rural communities with less concentrated poverty can serve summer meals to poor children
Seamless summer option
The Summer Meals Act allows schools and other organizations to be cross-eligible for both summer meals and afterschool meals and snacks. This reduces the administrative burden for programs that feed low-income children year-round.
Improving nutrition in underserved, hard-to-reach areas
The Summer Meals Act calls for an additional $10 million in competitive grants to support transportation solutions that ensure children in rural and other hard-to-reach areas can access summer meals. Priority is given to feeding sites that also offer educational or enrichment activities, providing even greater return on this transportation investment.
If you work with low-income youth during the school year, find out where summer meals are served in your community and help conduct outreach to families. Here are additional tips from the USDA on how to promote summer meals at your site within your community.
If you are a community-based organization that provides summer programming, talk with your state agency to find out whether your program can serve as a summer meals site.