Anti-hunger, school groups praise Biden nutrition initiatives
Anti-hunger and school groups have praised the nutrition provisions in President Biden’s American Families Plan announced Wednesday when he spoke to Congress.
Food Research & Action Center President Luis Guardia said the anti-hunger group “is thrilled that the Biden administration has heeded the calls of anti-hunger organizations to address the growing hunger gaps in child nutrition driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Guardia continued, “We commend the administration for including provisions that ensure children have access to the nutrition they need year-round.”
FRAC said the plan would:
▪ expand Summer EBT to all students eligible to receive free and reduced-price school meals during the school year — 29 million children — and make the program permanent;
▪ increase the number of high-poverty schools participating in community eligibility, a provision that helps schools and school districts offer free school meals to all children;
▪ lower the eligibility requirement for elementary schools to participate in community eligibility from 40 percent to 25 percent;
▪ make it possible for children who receive Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to be eligible automatically for free school meals; and
▪ provide $1 billion for a healthy foods initiative to build upon the improved school nutrition standards, including offering support and enhanced reimbursement rates for schools meeting higher standards.
Guardia said the proposal “also includes critical investments needed to offset rising hunger by providing much-needed assistance to low-income households:
▪ it provides formerly incarcerated individuals convicted of drug-related felonies with restored access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides equal access to food assistance for those who are reentering into society;
▪ it expands the Affordable Care Act premiums tax credits to reduce child poverty and hunger; and
▪ it makes permanent the full refundability of the child tax credit to provide support to families who have been affected by the pandemic and for parents who have been forced to cut down on work or give up jobs to take care of children after losing access to child care.
The nonprofit School Nutrition Association (SNA) welcomed Biden’s proposal to allow more schools to participate in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).
“For schools that are able to participate, the Community Eligibility Provision has been a tremendous benefit to students, families and school nutrition professionals,” said SNA President Reggie Ross.
CEP allows high poverty schools to serve free school breakfast and lunch to all students. Families are not required to complete the complex free and reduced-price meal application, relieving school nutrition programs of burdensome paperwork, processing and free meal eligibility verification.
“CEP ensures every child can eat a healthy meal without having to worry about whether they have enough money in their accounts and wipes out the stigma for kids who depend on free school meals,” said Ross.
Many CEP-eligible schools do not currently participate in the program because the reimbursement formula does not allow the program to claim all school meals at the free rate, making CEP financially untenable.
“Any effort to enable more schools to participate in CEP will increase access to healthy school meals in needy communities,” Ross said.
SNA also welcomed the proposal to expand direct certification with Medicaid for free and reduced price meals, as well as a proposed demonstration to provide additional funding to schools exceeding school meal standards.
“Even prior to the pandemic, school meal programs operated on extremely tight budgets and have faced financial challenges as they have served students more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-sodium entrees,” said Ross.
–The Hagstrom Report
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