Auburn, NY – Standing at the Booker T. Washington Community Center in Auburn, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, joined by Auburn Mayor Michael Quill, Booker T. Washington Community Center Executive Director Denise Farrington and the Food Bank of Central New York’s Outreach Director Amalia Swan, announced introduction of the bipartisan Summer Meals Act, which would enhance the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Summer Food Service Program. The legislation would help improve nutrition and enhance learning in underserved areas by better integrating summer education and meals programs, making it easier for public-private partner organizations to participate in the summer meals program, and by providing a third meal for children who attend evening enrichment programs.
“Many children receive their only meal at school during the year, and when school is out for the summer, they go hungry,” said Senator Gillibrand, first New York Senator to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years. “The bipartisan Summer Meals Act would help combat this problem by strengthening the USDA summer nutrition program to help more children across America access quality meals during the summer months. Every child who is hungry should have food year round.”
Across the country, 31 million receive free or reduced school lunch – meaning their families lives at or near the poverty line – but only one in seven of these high need children have access to summer meals. In New York, there are more than 1.7 million children who receive free or reduced school lunch, but only 27 percent have access to summer meals. The Food Bank of Central New York runs five sites in Cayuga County during the summer months. According to Hunger Solutions New York 231 kids ate lunch on an average day in July last year, compared to 3,973 kids who rely on free/reduced price school meals in the 2012-2013 school year.
Mayor Michael Quill said, “I am extremely excited about Senator Gillibrand’s legislation to ensure that low-income children have access to healthy food during the summer months. As a community, we are thankful that this will ease the process for both public and private organizations to provide meals after school, on weekends and during school holidays.”
Amalia Swan, Director of Outreach for the Food Bank of Central New York said, “Summer meal programs are more important than ever before as families are still struggling to recover from the recession and high unemployment. Low-income families also face the stress of providing safe, supervised and affordable places for kids and teens to socialize, play and continue to learn during the summer. In New York State, only 31% of children who receive lunch assistance during the school year access a summer feeding site on a typical summer day. The Summer Meals Act of 2014 would strengthen, protect, and expand access to the Summer Nutrition Programs.”
Denise Farrington, Executive Director of the Booker T. Washington Community Center said, “The Summer Meals Act of 2014 would be a tremendous asset to children and their families. With this bipartisan bill, Booker T. Washington Community Center would continue to reach out to more community members than ever to ensure all children receive the proper nutrition they deserve.”
The Summer Meals Act would help more children access healthy food by lowering the threshold to allow areas with 40 percent or more of students receiving free or reduced lunch to be eligible for the program. Currently the bar is set at 50 percent. This legislation would also reduce the paperwork burden for private-public partnerships who want to participate in the program, provide children with transportation to the summer meals sites, and would also offer an additional meal to children who attend evening programs.
The USDA Summer Food Service Program provides low-income children under age 18, who would normally receive free or reduced school lunch, with quality, nutritious food during the summer. Several programs run in tandem with educational enrichment programs to keep children engaged and safe during the summer months. Currently, there are 44 national organizations that have endorsed the Summer Meals Act legislation.