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CAFB Applauds Introduction of Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act of 2022

July 22, 2022

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Labor and EducationChairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) released the much anticipated Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act. We are excited to see many provisions that  would expand access to free school meals, nationwide Summer EBT, improvements to summer meals and modernizing the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). These key investments would benefit California and have been long sought by the California Association of Food Banks and the broader anti-hunger community.

Hunger among California households with children remains unacceptable, with 25% of children in California actively without enough food to eat, the worst form of hunger. By adopting these proposals, Congress can affirm that the status quo of food insecurity prior to the pandemic is unacceptable, and move the needle toward a hunger-free future for our children.

Many of the investments proposed in this bill have been championed by Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Lofgren, Rep. DeSaulnier, and Rep. Levin, and we are grateful for their leadership prioritizing the needs of children and families.

The investments proposed in the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act will bolster California’s first-in-the-nation adoption of healthy school meals for all, enabling significant reinvestment into meal quality, kitchen workforce, and other school nutrition program needs. It will also establish nationwide Summer EBT, a long-time California priority. EBT aid when school meals aren’t available has proven more important than ever through the Pandemic EBT program — a lifeline for immigrant families and those excluded from other aid — and underscored by our Congressional Hunger Center report by Rocio Perez who surveyed nearly 1,500 Latinx, Asian-American, and other California families who received P-EBT.

We call on all California Members of the House Education and Labor Committee to support the bill, and urge the House and Senate to quickly pass the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act into law.

Summary of Child Nutrition proposals in the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act:

  • Statewide CEP – would increase the number of schools that can offer meals to all students at no charge through several improvements to the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). California could see approximately 91–96%of the meals served reimbursed at the highest federal rate (the free rate) under the Statewide CEP option.
  • Summer EBT – provide an EBT benefit of $75 for each summer month when school meals aren’t available to prevent summer hunger, and gives the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) waiver authority during federally declared emergencies.
  • Summer Meals – Allows all summer meal sites to serve up to three meals a day, and  expands access to summer meals by reducing area eligibility to 40% from 50% as well as allows nonprofit sponsors like food banks to provide meals and snacks to children after school, on weekends, and school holidays – allowing them to operate one program rather than two, significantly reducing paperwork and administrative burden.
  • Kitchens Improvement and Training- provides funding for kitchen equipment, to improve kitchen infrastructure, update technology systems, supports scratch cooking, and professional development and training to carry out scratch cooking. 
  • Stopping Lunch Shaming and Debt – reinforces California’s leadership by providing critical national protections for children and families with unpaid school meal fees including prohibiting lunch shaming as well as the use of debt collectors, and requiring school districts to take steps to determine if families who are accruing school lunch debt are eligible for free or reduced-price meals; 
  • WIC – modernizes and makes pandemic era flexibilities permanent and extends benefits to children up to 6 years old.

It also includes expanding and improving the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACP), improvements to nutrition education efforts and much more.

We call on Congress to pass the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act and support these critical investments to prevent child hunger. No child should go hungry – now is the time to act and increase food security for all children.

CAFB’s CNR Priorities Factsheet 

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