Federal policies make Virginia meal programs stronger
Across Virginia’s communities, a collaboration of compassionate and hardworking food banks, school nutrition teams and nonprofits are hard at work every day to help ensure youth in our communities have the food they need to grow, flourish and thrive.
While these local efforts are essential, federal nutrition programs give local groups the resources for expanding access to healthy meals for kids.
Last year, in the midst of a pandemic, school meal delivery programs and ’Grab and Go’ pickup sites provided all families with safe and effective access points. The programs were made possible by some temporary adjustments to federal policies, and they were wildly successful. It’s time to make those changes permanent.
Here’s how nutrition priorities would help:
Hampton Roads Hunger Initiatives
Expanding Community Eligibility Provision makes free school meals easier and efficient.
At the beginning of every school year, letters and meal applications are shared with student households and must be returned for youth to receive free or reduced-price meals at school.
The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows high-need schools to make meals available at no cost to all students. CEP also makes processes easier and streamlined for school staff and families because there’s no paperwork for caregivers. Provisions in the Build Back Better plan would expand CEP eligibility to nearly 400 additional schools in Virginia and connect 300,000 more students with free meals.
Strengthening CEP would mean 60% of Virginia’s student population could get no-cost meals.
Action: Expand CEP in the Build Back Better plan to reach more kids experiencing hunger
Summer is the hungriest time of year for kids – it doesn’t have to be with permanent Summer EBT
Summer meal sites are found throughout Virginia and serve nourishing meals to students when school is not in session. Even so, a variety of barriers, such as transportation, severe weather and scheduling complications often prevent kids from accessing sites.
The Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (Summer EBT) provides a one-time payment of $375 in the summer to help families cover the cost of food in between school. The investment helps families keep nourishing food in the pantry when the school cafeteria isn’t an option.
6 in 7 eligible kids don’t access the nutrition they need during the summer months.
Action: Make Summer EBT permanent to help keep families nourished when school is not in session.
Extending the Child Tax Credit would help more families put food on the table.
The Child Tax Credit (CTC) expansion provides families with $3,600 for every child in the household under the age of six, and $3,000 for every child between the ages of six and 17.
According to family surveys, half of Virginia families used the CTC to purchase food. Families also experienced lower rates of severe food insecurity because of CTC payments. But without a permanent fix, payments will run out at the end of the year.
Purchasing food was the most common use of CTC payments.
Action: Extending CTC in the Build Back Better plan will promote food insecurity among Virginia families.
Non-Congregate meals help summer sites reach more kids
Before the pandemic, summer meal sites were required to serve meals at a defined location, also known as congregate meals. Due to safety concerns, sites and schools were allowed to serve non-congregate meals, meaning parents could pick up meals or organizations could drop off multiple meals at a child’s home. Thanks to this flexibility, Virginia served nearly 3 million more summer meals in 2020, compared to the year before.
It’s tough to reach kids with meals during the summer months. Non-congregate meal rules make it a lot easier by breaking down barriers.
Action: Congress must make non-congregate meals permanent in a process called Child Nutrition Reauthorization in 2022.
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