COLUMBUS – The ring of the school bell means the resumption of nutritious regular meals for many of Ohio’s children.
The School Lunch Program provides food for nearly 800,000 low-income children in Ohio, but the Food Research and Action Center estimates 9-in-10 are unable to access summer meal programs.
A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate, the Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act, would help expand the Summer Food Service Program.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, explains the legislation addresses the barriers that prevent children from getting to summer food sites.
“The most significant barrier is a lack of a program operating within their communities,” she explains. “Especially in rural areas, many children have no access at all – a lack of transportation and safety issues.”
The legislation would establish a summer electronic benefit program so families can purchase food. It would also allow states to provide meals through backpack meal programs and delivery options.
Hamler-Fugitt says any costs associated with expanding the program are insignificant considering the overall cost of summer learning loss. And she hopes lawmakers will help ensure that no child goes hungry.
“These options could help bring meals to nearly 22 million low-income children across the nation, ensuring that their health is not put at risk and they’re not losing ground developmentally and suffering learning challenges,” she states.
U.S Sen. John Boozman of Arizona introduced the bill with the bipartisan support of Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown and Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell. It’s part of the Child Nutrition Act, which must be reauthorized by Sept. 30.