At the start of the pandemic, Congress acted quickly to ensure schools and nonprofits had the tools and flexibilities needed to keep kids fed. Waivers like the congregate feeding waiver have allowed schools in rural Kentucky to deliver meals directly to kids, while higher reimbursement rates have helped schools and child care centers weather staffing and supply chain challenges.
Last week, Congress once again acted quickly to ensure that these flexibilities and higher reimbursements were extended through the upcoming school year by passing the Keep Kids Fed Act. This bipartisan, budget neutral bill extends a number of flexibilities through the end of the 2022-2023 school year, such as:
- Extending flexibilities to summer meal programs, such as the congregate feeding and grab and go meals waivers;
- Providing schools with an additional temporary reimbursement of 40 cents per lunch and 15 cents per breakfast, and child care centers with an extra 10 cents reimbursement per meal;
- Providing all family day care homes with the higher temporary reimbursement rate for school year 2022-2023;
- Extending supply chain and meal pattern flexibilities through the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
With 1 in 5 Kentucky kids experiencing hunger, this legislation is a major win for Kentucky kids, families, and schools. We thank Senate Minority Leader McConnell, Senator Paul, Budget Chairman Yarmuth, Representative Comer, Representative Guthrie, Representative Barr, and Representative Rogers for voting yes on this crucial piece of legislation.
Additionally, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced this morning that they would be directing almost $1 billion in additional funds for school nutrition departments to purchase locally grown food and produce. This will go further to ensure school nutrition departments have the resources they need to provide kids with healthy meals, as well as help districts endure rising food costs and staffing challenges.
While we celebrate today, we know that these provisions are temporary and will expire at the end of the next school year. Hunger is not a temporary reality for Kentucky kids. We call on our Congressional Delegation and the Biden Administration to work together to create permanent solutions to strengthen Kentucky kids’ access to nutrition through avenues such as Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Policies such as the congregate feeding waiver and Summer EBT should be made permanent, while reimbursement rates for meal programs and funding for school nutrition departments should be raised to reflect the real costs of food, labor, and production.
The Keep Kids Fed Act, along with today’s announcement from the USDA, will go a long way to ensure that Kentucky kids have access to healthy meals this upcoming school year. However, we cannot continue to kick the can down the road on child nutrition with temporary solutions. Kentucky kids are counting on Congress to pass comprehensive child nutrition reform!
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