WASHINGTON – To mark the start of summer, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) and Congressman Mike Levin (CA-49) re-introduced the Stop Child Hunger Act to provide families who have children eligible for free and reduced-price school meals with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card when school is not in session. The EBT card could be used during any school closure, or when schools are operating remotely or in a hybrid model. Approximately 26.9 million students are eligible to receive free or reduced-price school meals each day during the school year.
School nutrition programs provide critical nourishment to students to support healthy living and improve cognitive function throughout the school day. A lapse in these benefits during school closures can have a drastic impact on low-income families. A permanent Summer EBT program passed in the Fiscal Year 2023 omnibus government funding package in December 2022
“The Stop Child Hunger Act removes barriers for kids to access nutritious meals at school year-round even when school is not in session. This legislation is critical to ending child hunger in our nation – including for the over 115,000 children in food-insecure households in Connecticut,” said Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) “The Summer EBT program was expanded in the 2023 federal budget, but it is imperative we go even further and provide funding for children to eat during all holidays and school breaks. As a teacher, I know that we cannot continue to rely on the goodwill of educators, neighbors, and communities to fill the gaps and feed hungry children. This legislation helps to address this national crisis.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed just how many children have difficulty accessing the nutrition they need to grow and thrive when they aren’t being fed at school,” said Congressman Mike Levin (CA-49). “In December 2022, Congress established the permanent Summer EBT program to continue school meal funding for families in need throughout summer vacation. The Stop Child Hunger Act goes even further to ensure that parents have the benefits they need to put food on the table for their children, not only during summer break but during all holiday vacations and school closures when school meals aren’t available. This legislation strengthens existing programs that have proven effective in ensuring every child has the nutrition they need to grow and thrive year-round. We need to step up to meet that demand and ensure that kids aren’t going hungry.”
The Stop Child Hunger Act builds on the permanent Summer EBT program to establish a permanent nutrition program for children from low-income families for all school closures. Specifically, it would:
Expand the new permanent Summer EBT program to all school closures longer than five consecutive days.
Increase the value of the benefit to cover the cost of breakfast, lunch, and a snack for every day school is closed. The FY23 omnibus government funding package only authorized funding for $40 a month per child.
Allow eligible households to use EBT cards for the purchase of food only from retail food stores that have been approved for participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Provide grants to states to support the development of data systems or upgrades to existing data systems to carry out this program more effectively.
Text of the legislation is available here.
The Stop Child Hunger Act is endorsed by: Alliance to End Hunger, California Coalition of Food Banks, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), GRACE/End Child Poverty California, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, National Education Association, San Diego Hunger Coalition, and Share Our Strength.
"Millions of children lose access to free and reduced-price school meals when schools close during the school year,” said Luis Guardia, President of the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). "The Stop Child Hunger Act would build upon the Summer EBT program that was created in the omnibus bill by providing much-needed grocery benefits to families who rely on school meals to keep hunger at bay when schools close for five days or more, increasing the benefit level, and fully covering states administrative costs. FRAC strongly endorses this legislation and urges Congress to move quickly to pass this bill. Hungry children can't wait.”
“Educators are focused on ensuring all students feel safe and supported in their schools, including ensuring they have everything they need to stay focused on learning. The National Education Association is pleased to support the Stop Child Hunger Act. This legislation builds upon the proven success of programs that help fill the gaps for students when school is not in session, or when high-quality enrichment programs are not available. Students need this support now more than ever. Since the universal school meals waivers and SNAP emergency allotments ended, educators across the country have witnessed an alarming rise in students going hungry,” said NEA Director of Government Relations, Marc Egan. “No child should have to learn on an empty belly. Food insecurity can be found in every community — urban, suburban, and rural — and this crisis is particularly exacerbated in our Black, brown and Indigenous communities.”