Warner, Kaine, Stabenow, & Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Extend School and Summer Meal Flexibilities to Feed Children
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and a bipartisan group of their colleagues in introducing the Support Kids Not Red Tape Act, which would grant the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) additional flexibility so that schools and summer meal sites can stay open and improve access to free, healthy meals for children. The additional flexibility would mean less red tape and more options for families, including by allowing families to pick up a week’s worth of meals or having meals delivered to their home on the school bus. These flexibilities have been crucial to feeding students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. With 90% of schools still facing many challenges as they return to normal operations, these flexibilities would give schools much-needed support to keep kids fed.
“Every child, regardless of where they live, deserves nutritious meals,” said Senators Warner and Kaine. “Ensuring that school districts have the flexibility and federal resources they need to keep feeding their students is essential to our fight to end childhood hunger in America. This legislation will help us do that.”
“We should make it easier for kids to get the meals they need – not harder. Our bill cuts red tape and keeps the priority on giving children the healthy meals they need and deserve,” said Senator Stabenow. “As we come out of this pandemic, schools are doing their best - but it takes time for them to transition back to their operations before COVID. We can’t let hungry kids get caught in the middle. Without this support, up to 30 million kids who get food at school will see their essential breakfast and lunch meals disrupted. And millions of hungry kids who rely on summer meals may have nowhere to go to get food.”
More specifically, the bipartisan Support Kids Not Red Tape Act would:
- Extend USDA’s authority to issue waivers from June 30, 2022 to September 30, 2023, which would extend USDA school meal flexibilities. This is simply a continuation of the authority USDA has had and exercised throughout the pandemic. This would cover this summer, as well as the full 2022-2023 school year, and summer of 2023, and create a transition plan to help schools adjust back to normal school meal operations starting October 1, 2023.
- Direct states to submit a transition plan to USDA so that schools will be prepared and supported when transitioning back to normal National School Lunch Program operations after the increased flexibilities end.
- Direct the Secretary to provide technical assistance to states on drafting transition plans and to School Food Authorities on meeting meal standards during the waiver period.
Since the pandemic began, Warner and Kaine have secured federal funding to expand access to food assistance for students, including successfully pushing USDA to make food distribution policies more flexible for Virginia’s families. They also helped secure Virginia’s request to operate a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program to ensure children have access to healthy food while at home. In March 2022, Warner and Kaine sent a letter urging USDA to issue guidance to better address the growing food insecurity crisis among college students.
Kaine has also introduced bipartisan legislation, including his Assisting Community Colleges in Educating Skilled Students (ACCESS) to Careers Act and Geteway to Careers Act, that would address food insecurity at community colleges.
In addition to Warner, Kaine, and Stabenow, this legislation was also cosponsored by 49 members of the Senate, including: Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tom Carper (D-DE), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Angus King (I-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).