As food prices continue to skyrocket nationwide, today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, stood at the Food Bank of Central New York 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 Food Bank of Central New York Executive Director Karen Belcher, Assemblymember William B. Magnarelli, Assemblymember Albert A. Stirpe, and State Senator John Mannion.
“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 a high school science teacher for almost 30 years I have seen first-hand how the expansion of school meal programs directly benefits students and the community,” said New York State Senator John W. Mannion. “Addressing child food insecurity is an issue we must agree on and I commend Senator Gillibrand for delivering these vital services for kids in Central New York and across the country.”
“The ability to count on schools for nutritious meals throughout the pandemic has been a godsend for many children,” said Assemblymember Stirpe. “The likelihood of losing that safety net had put tremendous stress on many families. That’s why I’m so grateful for the passage of the Keep Kids Fed Act, which continues these programs. They say the US Senate can’t get anything done. But, thanks to the leadership of Senator Gillibrand and members of both political parties, they’ve proven that important bipartisan legislation is possible.”
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.