Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act Would Help States Reach More Children in Need

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) is part of a bipartisan group that today introduced legislation that applies lessons learned from the pandemic to make child nutrition programs more efficient, flexible and better equipped to reach children in need during the summer.

Hyde-Smith is an original cosponsor of the Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act (S.2005) to add flexibility to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which offers children free lunch and snacks in the summer.  A majority of children in Mississippi qualify to receive free or reduced-priced meals.

“The flexibility granted to schools and nonprofits early in the pandemic were very important to ensure children could have access to and receive meals, especially in rural areas.  We now want to keep those successful solutions in place to make USDA nutrition programs more effective,” Hyde-Smith said.  “This smart and bipartisan legislation, I believe, will be very beneficial for children and families in Mississippi and across the country.” 

Current summer meals regulations require children to eat meals together at a central location, which can be difficult for children in rural or underserved areas.

The Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act proposes two alternative options states can utilize through the program:

  1. Allows meals to be consumed off-site through innovative means like mobile feeding and backpack meal programs.  This off-site process proved successful in the pandemic.  The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, enacted in March 2020, authorized waivers allowing off-site meal distribution to a parent or guardian to take home to their children.  USDA approved a Mississippi waiver in June 2020, which provided greater flexibility to school districts and other nutrition providers to deliver meals.
  2. Authorizes the summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program to provide eligible families $30 per summer month per child to purchase eligible food items from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) approved retailers.  Summer EBT reduced child hunger by over 30 percent in USDA pilot programs.  Additionally, the Pandemic EBT program is essentially the same approach this bill proposes for families to use during the summer.

U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced the Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act.  Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and John Thune (R-S.D.) also cosponsored the measure.

Leading national advocacy groups supporting the bill include Feeding America, Share Our Strength, Tusk Philanthropies, Bread for the World, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the Alliance to End Hunger, and Save the Children.