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House Education & Labor Committee Markup Proposes Major Investments to Fight Child Hunger

September 8, 2021

Tomorrow, the House Education & Labor Committee will mark up its portion of the Build Back Better Act. The Committee includes more than $35 billion in funding for the Child Nutrition Programs, including key investments that would benefit California and have been long sought by the California Association of Food Banks and broader the anti-hunger community.

Despite interventions, hunger among California households with children remains unacceptable, with nearly 700,000 California children actively without enough food, 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 Build Back Better Act will bolster California’s first in the nation adoption of healthy school meals for all, enabling significant reinvestment into meal quality, 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. (A summary of the provisions is below.)

These proposals work to ensure critical food access and support a more equitable recovery. It’s paramount that we learn the lessons of the Great Recession and not cut aid prematurely, but make long-term improvements to the food safety net needed to prevent a resurgence in hunger.

We call on all California Members of the House Education & Labor Committee to support the bill, and urge the House and Senate to quickly pass the Build Back Better Act into law.

Summary of Child Nutrition proposals in the Build Back Better Act:

  • Improve the Community Eligibility Provision: lower the eligibility threshold from 40 to 25 percent Identified Students and make it more financially viable by increasing the multiplier from 1.6 to 2.5. This will bring significant savings to California’s first-in-the-nation adoption of school meals for all, allowing for significant reinvestment into our school nutrition program.
  • Give California and all states the option to implement Community Eligibility statewide, bringing significant program streamlining – and if utilized, would make all California students automatically eligible for Summer EBT.
  • Establish Summer EBT nationwide for students who receive free or reduced-price school meals, as championed by Rep. Levin in H.R. 3519. The Act would allow states as well as Tribal organizations that participate in WIC to provide Summer EBT.
  • Provide $500 million for school kitchen equipment grants, as championed by Rep. DeSaulnier in H.R. 4379.
  • Allow all states to conduct Medicaid direct certification, which is currently limited to 35 states, including California.
  • Improve direct certification for free school meals for children who participate in Medicaid and receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, guardianship, or adoption assistance payments, or are in kinship care.
  • Provide $634 million for a Healthy School Meal Incentives demonstration project.

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