(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) helped introduce the Support Kids Not Red Tape Act. The bill extends USDA school meal flexibilities from June 30, 2022 to September 30, 2023. These flexibilities have been crucial to feeding children throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
With 90 percent of our schools still facing many challenges as they return to normal operations, these flexibilities give our schools and summer meal programs much-needed support to deal with ongoing food service issues and keep kids fed. The bill will also help schools transition back to normal meal operations under the National School Lunch Program. USDA requested this authority be extended in the omnibus.
“Combating child hunger shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Every child deserves access to healthy meals, and schools are often the most reliable source of food for low-income students. That’s why we need to provide support to schools so essential meal programs aren’t cut due to budgetary problems created by the pandemic,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort to ensure the millions of students who rely on school for breakfast and lunches aren’t left vulnerable and hungry.”
“For children experiencing hunger, having access to meals at schools is often a lifeline,” said Senator Hassan. “As families face rising costs across the board, now is not the time to cut back on a program that provides children with consistent access to healthy meals. We have a responsibility to ensure that our children have nutritious meals for their health and well-being, and I urge the rest of my colleagues to support this bill.”
Senators Shaheen and Hassan have fought to ensure vulnerable families are able to access the nutrition they need during this economic and public health crisis. The American Rescue Plan that Shaheen and Hassan supported provided $490 million to increase the amount of the cash-value voucher provided under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which is used to purchase fruits and vegetables, to as much as $35 during the pandemic. This voucher was previously just $9-11. The American Rescue Plan also provided an additional $390 million to increase participation in WIC through outreach and program modernization. Previously, Shaheen successfully led bipartisan negotiations to provide $13 billion in nutrition assistance in the emergency COVID relief legislation that was passed by Congress and signed into law in December. This assistance included a 15 percent increase to individual SNAP benefits for six months, more than $1 billion in emergency funding for school and child care meal providers, an expansion of the Pandemic-EBT program to include families with young children, $400 million for food banks and $175 million for senior nutrition services, including Meals on Wheels. She has repeatedly led calls to strengthen nutrition assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. She urged the USDA to expand SNAP participants’ access to the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot Program, and helped introduce legislation that would implement SNAP online purchasing.
Senator Hassan led the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation in successfully pushing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to select a new distributor for the New Hampshire Food Bank under the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, which came after the delegation raised concerns about the delivery of inferior, low-quality food products for Granite State families in need amid the pandemic. Additionally, following efforts led by Senators Hassan, the United States Department of Agriculture also agreed to fully extend school meal waivers through the end of the 2020-2021 school year, giving schools the flexibility that they need to fully serve students whether or not they are attending school in person.