Larsen, Young Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Combat Childhood Hunger, Expand Access to Meals Outside of Regular School Hours
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Rick Larsen (D-WA) introduced the Summer Meals Act of 2021 – a bipartisan bill to fight childhood hunger by expanding access to summer meal programs in Alaska and across the country. The Summer Meals Act helps strengthen childhood nutrition by cutting red tape for local organizations serving summer meals and expanding the availability of meals and snacks to students outside of normal school hours.
"As a former fifth-grade teacher, I know how difficult it can be for families to make ends meet and keep food on the table. This is particularly true amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has devastated our nation's economy and caused too many working parents to lose their jobs and income. Combating childhood hunger has always been one of my highest priorities, and I am proud to introduce the Summer Meals Act with the support of my good friend, Congressman Rick Larsen. This commonsense, bipartisan legislation will help give kids throughout Alaska and the nation better access to healthy food during the summer months when school is not in session," said Young. "As it stands, current federal regulations are forcing Alaskan non-profits to waste vital resources and funding to meet duplicative and unnecessary standards when administering crucial child nutrition programs. My bill would eliminate this bureaucracy and increase the impact of summer meal programs for low-income families, both in rural areas like Alaska and across the country. In my Fort Yukon classroom, I quickly learned that if kids are not eating, they are not learning. We must make sure that students start the school year ready to learn, and these programs are critical to helping students avoid losing their academic gains throughout the summer months. I am proud to have the support of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Food Research & Action Center, and countless other advocates on this important bill, and I will be working hard to see it across the finish line."
“Kids should be focused on getting good grades, not worried about where they will get their next meal,” said Larsen. “Since the pandemic began, the share of Washingtonians suffering from hunger has nearly doubled. With schools out, summer months are especially hard for children in low-income and underserved communities. The Summer Meals Act will build partnerships focused on breaking down barriers to ensure children get regular, healthy meals regardless of the season.”
“Thanks to the critical structure of the Federal Summer Nutrition Programs, Boys & Girls Clubs were able to immediately respond to food insecurity issues faced by communities in the early stages of the pandemic,” said Jim Clark, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “These programs allow Clubs to continue to meet the increasingly critical reality of children and families experiencing food insecurity. The Summer Meals Act would enable all youth-serving community organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs to provide young people the physical and emotional support they urgently need during these uncertain times. We’re grateful for the leadership of Congressman Young and his commitment to the pressing issues facing America’s youth.”
“The Summer Nutrition Programs combined with summer programming will be critical to support learning and counter the acute learning loss caused by the COVID-19 school closures," said Luis Guardia, President, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). "The provisions in the Summer Meals Act of 2021 will increase the reach of summer meals and make it easier for summer programs to participate. With food insecurity at unprecedented levels due to COVID-19, the Summer Nutrition Programs can — and should — better support families moving forward. FRAC commends the bill's sponsors for their efforts to strengthen, protect, and expand access to the Summer Nutrition Programs through the Summer Meals Act of 2021, and encourage Members of Congress to cosponsor this important bill."