As food prices continue to skyrocket nationwide, today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, stood at Geraldine J. Mann Elementary School to announce the passage of the bipartisan Keep Kids Fed Act. Passed after Gillibrand urged congressional leadership to take urgent action to address child hunger, the Keep Kids Fed Act will extend pandemic school meal waivers and other flexibilities through the summer, making it easier and more affordable for schools to provide free and healthy meals to students in need. Gillibrand was joined by Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino, Niagara Falls City School District Superintendent Mark Laurrie and President and CEO of FeedMore WNY Tara Ellis.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools, putting millions of kids at risk of losing access to free school meals, we took decisive action to cut red tape and help schools continue to feed students in need,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Now, with school summer break already underway and the cost of food and other necessities skyrocketing, we have to continue doing everything we can to help schools and other summer meal providers. That’s why I’m proud that Congress heeded my call to put kids ahead of bureaucracy and extend pandemic-era flexibilities by passing the Keep Kids Fed Act. I’ll keep fighting in Congress to make sure every child in New York always knows where their next meal is coming from.”
“As the cost of inflation continues hitting our country – and our community – it’s becoming increasingly difficult for parents to provide nutritious and substantive meals for their children,” said Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino. “The Keep Kids Fed Act will be crucial aid for our local families. It will allow our City’s School District and FeedMore WNY to continue providing meals to our local children. I thank Senator Gillibrand for pushing her colleagues in Congress to put kids’ needs first.”
“School meals are a lifeline for Niagara Falls’ children and families living in poverty,” said Niagara Falls City School District Superintendent Mark Laurrie. “The meals provide educational support, improving behavior, the ability to focus, and academic performance. The District’s partnership with FeedMore of Western New York ensures that students have the nutrition they need throughout the day to learn and on weekends when children are not in school.”
“FeedMore WNY is honored to stand beside Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Niagara Falls Superintendent Mark Laurrie and Niagara Falls Mayor Restaino. We applaud the United States Congress and Senator Gillibrand for putting the nutrition of our children first and passing the Keep Kids Fed Act. This Act will provide temporary authority to the USDA to continue summer and school meal program flexibilities and increase reimbursement rates to help offset rising food costs, supply chain disruptions, and ongoing barriers to reaching kids in rural areas. FeedMore WNY recognizes the importance of ensuring that every Western New Yorker has access to nutritious food, particularly our children. Studies have shown an overall increase in academic performance for children with access to adequate nutrition and healthy food options. In FeedMore WNY’s service area of Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Niagara Counties, more than 50,000 children are considered food insecure. We must continue to ensure that they have the resources they need to lead successful lives,” said Tara A. Ellis, President and CEO of FeedMore WNY.
During the 2021-22 school year, the USDA issued COVID-19 waivers to schools, allowing 90% of school nutrition departments nationwide to offer free meals to all students and providing additional support to schools dealing with supply chain and staffing challenges. These waivers were set to expire on June 30th; ahead of this deadline, Senator Gillibrand led 32 of her Senate colleagues in writing a bipartisan letter calling on congressional leadership to extend the waivers and expand student eligibility for free school meals. Shortly afterwards, Congress passed the Keep Kids Fed Act. The legislation will allow schools and summer meal providers to continue serving free meals, extend meal delivery and grab-and-go options, ease paperwork requirements, and provide funding to help schools offset the increased cost of food and operating expenses. The full text of the bill is available here.
Gillibrand, a long-standing advocate for child nutrition programs, also laid out her additional proposals to fight food insecurity. Gillibrand’s bipartisan More Options to Develop and Enhance Remote Nutrition in WIC Act, or MODERN WIC Act, would make it easier for eligible women and children to certify for WIC benefits by allowing them to get certified remotely. Her bipartisan Summer Meals Act would expand eligibility for free meals to more students in low-income areas and improve nutrition in rural, underserved, and hard-to-reach areas. Gillibrand is also pushing to fully fund the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program for fiscal year 2023.