A pandemic program allowing waivers for schools to provide free breakfast and lunch to up to 10 million additional students is set to expire on June 30. Currently, Congress has not provided a solution to extend the program to the dismay of many advocated, Salon reports.
The waivers gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) authority to lift regulatory obstacles to universal school meals, such as income-based eligibility requirements. With that new flexibility, millions of families were able to discard paperwork and red tape for kids to get fed. The National School Lunch program feeds 22.6 million school children daily.
“There is no urgency and political appetite to even have this conversation,” Jillien Meier, director of the No Kid Hungry campaign, told Vox’s Rachel Cohen on Wednesday. “Frankly this is not a priority for Congress and the White House. People are really focused on having a ‘return to normal’... folks aren’t talking about it and they have no clue that this crisis is looming.
Some states around the country are taking measures into their own hands to extend the lunch program themselves. These efforts come with a high cost, given higher food prices, supply chain breaks, and staffing issues.
“Without them, schools will face financial penalties for not meeting federal nutrition requirements, even though they have no choice,” said Davis. “They will have fewer financial resources to meet higher prices for food and other goods, staffing, and transportation. Summer — already the hungriest time of year — will be particularly hard for kids when many summer sites will be unable to open.”
“Children in rural communities,” Davis added, “will face more barriers to accessing summer meals when important flexibilities like multiple meal pickup and delivery options disappear.”
It would only cost Congress $11 billion to reauthorize the program. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich) introduced the Support Kids Not Red Tape Act to extend the waivers, but only has support from all Senate Democrats and two lone Republicans, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins.
Some representatives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) want a permanent solution. Last year, they introduced a bill to enact a permanent, universal, and nationwide free school meals program, guaranteeing free breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack to all school children, regardless of their family income. That proposal has not received a vote in the House or Senate.
A portion of America claims to be pro-choice until it’s time to extend provisions like the expanded child tax credit and free school lunches because, god forbid, children need to be well-nourished.