In Washington, 1 in 4 children experience hunger. Despite warm weather and the bounty of our state’s agriculture, low-income families often struggle even more with finding enough food to meet their basic needs when schools close for the summer. Without school meals, families must find the resources to provide breakfasts, lunches and snacks for their kids who are now home during the day.
Over the next few months, Congress will begin work on several important pieces of legislation that will impact the work of ending childhood hunger:
- Federal Budget Appropriations: Congress must agree on a budget package to ensure funding for government programs and operations by the start of the next fiscal year on Oct. 1. Both the Senate and the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees passed finance packages last week, proposing funding for important child nutrition programs like WIC, SNAP, and TEFAP. Additionally, the House finance package includes a provision that attempts to roll back school meal standards that call for more whole grains, less sodium, and more fruits and vegetables.
- STOP Child Summer Hunger Act: Sen. Patty Murray is championing legislation that proposes giving an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card to families with children who are eligible for the free and reduced price school meal program with an additional $150 to be spent on food during the summer months. This proposal is based off of a pilot program (one testing area was Washington’s Clark County) that has shown high success rates in reducing hunger for families with children. The pilot program showed that hunger was reduced for these families by as much as 33%. A summer EBT program will supplement the existing Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) that provides funding for schools and private nonprofit organizations to host free summer meal sites.
- Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act: This legislation authorizes the government programs that ensure that low-income children can access healthy food where they live, play, and go to school. This package includes our national school lunch and breakfast programs, summer meals, after school meals, and meals at child care centers. This act also governs the monthly WIC package that provides foods targeted for meeting specific nutritional needs for pregnant women, infants and young children and the Farmers Market Nutrition Program for WIC. Congress reviews and reauthorizes these programs every five years. The current act, the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, will expire on September 30, 2015. That means that Congress won’t actively debate this legislation until next year; however, research and formation of priorities to expand and strengthen these programs will start now and continue over the next year.