Larsen and Young: Kids Deserve Healthy Meals All Year

Jun 26, 2014 Issues: Education, Social Services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today Representatives Rick Larsen, WA-02, and Don Young, AK, announced they will introduce bipartisan legislation to fight child hunger by expanding access to summer meal programs for kids.

The Summer Meals Act of 2014 works to improve communities’ ability to serve nutritious meals to kids in need by expanding eligibility requirements for federal summer meal programs, cutting down on red tape for local organizations serving summer meals to kids, and making meals and snacks more readily available during weekends and after school hours. The bill also supports transportation in rural areas where it is often more difficult for kids to participate in summer meal programs.

“All kids should have access to regular, healthy meals regardless of the season. But food insecurity is a persistent problem. In my district, nearly one in six people suffers from food insecurity,” Congressman Larsen said. “This bill will make sure communities that are home to a significant number of low-income children can participate in federal summer meal programs. And it will expand kids’ access to meals and snacks during times they are most vulnerable to hunger – summer, weekends and after school hours. I am pleased to work with Rep. Young and our colleagues in the Senate in a bipartisan way to make sure our kids get enough to eat every day.”

“I am proud to introduce the Summer Meals Act, a bipartisan effort to give kids throughout Alaska and the nation better access to meals during the summer,” Congressman Young said. “Current federal regulations are forcing Alaskan non-profits and faith-based organizations to waste vital resources and funding to meet duplicative and unnecessary standards when administering various child nutrition programs.  My bill would eliminate this bureaucracy and increase the impact of summer meal programs in rural areas and across the country.  As a former teacher, I know that these types of programs genuinely help kids maintain their academic progress throughout the summer months, and this legislation works to ensure that more students start the school year healthy and ready to learn.”

Organizations that provide summer meals are lining up in favor of the bill.

“This bill will improve access to nutritious food for thousands of low-income children in our state, and lift many of the significant administrative challenges Food Lifeline encounters when operating our Kids Cafe summer and afterschool meals program,” said Gina Clark, director of public policy for Food Lifeline, a Seattle-based organization that provides 82,000 meals a day to local food assistance programs throughout Western Washington state. “It’s a smart bill that supports hard working families, improves efficiencies and reduces logistical barriers that prevent many children, particularly in underserved and rural communities, from getting the food they need to stay healthy and thrive.”

"This bill will help feed even more hungry kids, especially in rural Alaska,” said Mary Sullivan, director of advocacy and public policy for the Food Bank of Alaska. “That's the bottom line for us, getting kids more access to the nutrition they need to grow, learn, and achieve in life as productive members of our communities. It all starts with simply having enough to eat, and we are thrilled Congressman Young is sponsoring this important legislation that will help kids get the food they need."

Larsen has long supported improving the federal summer meals program. He introduced the Ensuring All Students Year-round (EASY) Access to Meals and Snacks Act in 2010, provisions of which are included in the Summer Meals Act of 2014. Senators Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a companion bill earlier this week.

A fact sheet about the bill is available here. Full text is available here.