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48 bipartisan members of Congress call for extension of school breakfast, lunch for students in upcoming government budget vote

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bipartisan group of 48 members of Congress Thursday — led by Representatives Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), Katie Porter (CA-45), and Abigail Spanberger (VA-7) — wrote to congressional leadership and called for an extension of federally-provided school breakfast and lunch for students in the upcoming government budget vote.

Taking this action will help ensure that no student goes through their school day without the meals they need to succeed. Nationwide, the extension of this critical program would help feed an estimated 10 million students in need.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) authority to grant waivers to provide school breakfast and lunch for all nationwide. Additionally, Congress extended school meals for all in the Keep Kids Fed Act through Summer 2022. Now, with the expiration of the Keep Kids Fed Act as the 2022-2023 school year begins, millions of children have now lost access to school provided meals.

Under the current red-tape-laced bureaucratic system, there are many kids on the cusp of the federal threshold who would still go hungry in school. Nationwide, the administrative costs of analyzing these calculations and processing can cost school districts up to $100,000 a year — more than a billion dollars nationwide.

Studies show that 3 out of 4 public school teachers say students regularly come to school hungry. Of those educators who see hunger regularly, 81% say it happens at least once a week. Hunger in the classroom leads to a decreased ability to focus, decreased physical activity, stomach aches, headaches, depression, and anxiety.

“As the 2022-2023 school year begins, millions of children will lose access to school provided meals. We have a responsibility to ensure that no child goes hungry. We urge you to include funding for school meals for all in the next continuing resolution to fulfill the nutritional needs of our children and lower costs for our families,” the Members wrote in a letter today to Speaker Pelosi, House Minority Leader McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, and Senate Minority Leader McConnell. “We cannot allow another day to pass by without providing for our hungry children. There is nothing partisan about this — feeding our children is key to our long-term competitiveness as a nation. We have a unique window of opportunity to ensure that no child goes unfed. Providing school meals for all K-12 students is a proven, commonsense way to help children succeed, and it will cut costs for our families who are currently facing higher prices.”

Gottheimer, Porter, and other Members of Congress held a press conference today to push to extend this school meals program alongside nutrition and education advocates. Find support from the National Education Association (NEA), the School Nutrition Association (SNA), Hunger Free America, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Eat Right) below.

“All our students — no matter what they look like, where they come from or where they live — deserve access to the resources needed to grow and thrive. Free, healthy, and nutritious meals for all students preserve this vision by keeping students’ bellies full so their minds can learn. In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government provided waivers that allowed schools to offer healthy meals to all students for free. We urge Congress to continue this program this school year as school food service professionals work to provide nutritious meals under difficult circumstances and many families continue to struggle with changing economic circumstances. No child should go hungry at any school in our country,” said National Education Association (NEA) President Becky Pringle.

“Hungry children shouldn’t have to worry about whether they have enough lunch money or whether their family filled out the proper paperwork – all children deserve equal access to school meals,” said School Nutrition Association President Lori Adkins, MS, SNS, CHE. “Research shows students eat their healthiest meals at school, making school meals a smart investment to support children’s health and academic success. School Nutrition Association strongly supports this effort to offer all students free meals as part of their education,” said School Nutrition Association (SNA) President Lori Adkins.

“Good nutrition is critical for both child health and educational performance. To be schooled, you must be fueled. To be well read, you must be well fed. Extending the school meals waivers is a critical step we need to take to ensure that good nutrition continues, particularly in suburban and rural areas,” said Joel Berg, CEO, Hunger Free America, a nationwide direct service and advocacy nonprofit group.

“School meals are an important tool to address child hunger in our nation. And as families deal with increased inflation and other lingering economic impacts of the pandemic, many more children will need this critical resource this year,” said Lisa Davis, Senior Vice President of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. “But there’s a real concern right now that kids will miss out on the meals they need. Extending free school meals for all children through this academic year will go a long way in ensuring no child slips through the cracks.”

“Free school meals for all are a game changer in fueling children’s health and learning, and stretching family budgets,” said Luis Guardia, president of the Food Research & Action Center. “We can’t turn back now. FRAC urges Congress to extend free school meals to all students for the current school year.”

“Healthy school meals for children are as important to learning as textbooks and pencils. Thank you to Representatives Gottheimer and Porter for leading the effort to extend universal school meals for the rest of this school year. Given the pandemic’s impact on children’s health and price of healthy foods due to inflation, now is the time to double down on programs that will ensure that children have access to healthy food at school,” said Liz Campbell, MA, RDN, the Senior Director of Legislative and Government Affairs for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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