This past week, The Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act was approved by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. Our own United States. Senator John Boozman from Arkansas, also co-chairman of the Senate Hunger Caucus, authored the legislation, providing states with two additional options for addressing child hunger during the summer months when the National School Lunch Program (see Food Programs Working to Fight Child Hunger), the largest federal child nutrition program, providing nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to more than 31.6 million children each school day, is not available to the children who depend upon this program as their primary source of food and nourishment. As Boozman stated during committee consideration of the bill, “I’ve seen first-hand that nutrition is critical to our children’s ability to thrive in and out of the classroom. For too many of our nation’s children, summer can be the hungriest time of year. That’s why we need a summer meals program that works in urban, suburban and rural areas. The provisions included in this bill will give Arkansas and all other states the flexibility they need to choose what makes the most sense in their communities so that children in rural and hard to reach communities are getting the nutrition they need in the summer.”
First, this bill allows summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) and provides eligible families up to $30 per summer month per child to buy food for their children. Second, it gives all states the option to provide summer meals without a centralized location when there are certain needs in rural and high poverty areas. We are thrilled to see that congress recognizes the fact that our anti-hunger initiatives need serious reform, as there are still 12 million children (see More Than Just a Number) in the U.S. who struggle with food insecurity and hunger every day. What is even more so alarming than this statistic is the number of children, such as those living in rural areas in Arkansas, who do not have access to the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which offers eligible children from low-income families free lunch and snacks in the summer. While more than 50,000 Arkansas children receive summer meals through this program, a significant number of Arkansas children live in communities unable to operate a summer site. This bill gives each state the necessary flexibility to address the particular concerns of its communities and their residents.
We at Per Diems Against Poverty applaud Senator Boozman’s efforts toward addressing child hunger and malnourishment, not only in Arkansas but nationwide. It does not matter what side of the aisle you lean toward politically. Hunger in America is a dire issue that that surpasses politics. The Hunger Free Summer For Kids Act alone will not eradicate child hunger; however, we can hope that it will result in significant improvements to the existing child nutrition programs and close the meal gap in America. As expressed in previous articles, such as Don’t Think, Just Act, we cannot rely solely upon our government alone to solve hunger. We must all do our part to help solve the hunger crisis in our communities by advocating against hunger, volunteering at your local food bank, or even organizing a food drive. Thank you, Senator Boozman and congress, for recognizing that the health of our children is vital to the health of our country, and for realizing that together, we can end hunger in America. Visit PerDiems.org, ‘like’ us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter to get the latest updates on our fight against domestic hunger.