As summer begins, we are entering a challenging new phase for school and summer meal providers – and for the children and families who rely on them. While Pennsylvania has provided some flexibility to nutrition programs to better function through several USDA waivers, two waivers will expire unless Congress acts. June 30th will mark the end of one waiver which increased access to summer meals and provided school meals at no cost to all students in 90% of school districts nationwide.
School and summer meal providers are being asked to return to “normal” when the circumstances they face are far from normal. Dramatic increases in food and transportation costs, supply chain disruptions, and staffing shortages present significant obstacles to daily operations. As a result, meeting children’s nutritional needs is about to get much more difficult—but it doesn’t have to.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization, Congress’ process of making changes to child nutrition programs, last occurred in 2010. Now is the time for Congress to update and improve school and summer meals, as well as the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). What we’ve learned from the past two years can make these programs function better.
The pandemic has exacerbated educational and economic inequities. But it also taught us many lessons on improving access to child nutrition programs. Congress must do more to provide schools, childcare providers, and community-based organizations the tools they need to ensure all children have year-round access to nutritious meals.
Visit www.philabundance.org/advocate to join us in building a movement to end food insecurity and learn how to use your voice to advocate for programs that relieve hunger today and end hunger for good. Legislators need to hear the message loud and clear: no one should go hungry.