Extension of school meals program over summer sought

Democrats in Washington are negotiating a $3 billion deal to extend free school meals for 90 days over the summer. The federal program that provides waivers for these meals expires on June 30.

House Democrats are eyeing passage through either a standalone package or attaching the measure to a previously scheduled bill designed to reduce food costs, which have been soaring. The food prices bill – the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act – is expected to be voted on by the House next week.

It’s an omnibus package that would allow for increased sales of ethanol and biodiesel; help fund new meat or poultry processors while investigating the current concentration in the industry; and bolster the U.S. food system supply chain, among other things.

The school meals extension would cover the months of July, August and September. The program is a critical lifeline for millions of American children. And summer, when most schools aren’t in session, is a particularly crucial time for children who suffer from food insecurity.

Negotiators initially tried to get an extension of the program included in the omnibus funding bill approved by Congress in March. However at that time, there were objections from GOP lawmakers demanding pay-fors to offset the cost of the program. The same thing is happening now.

House Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) told Punchbowl News last week that he was working with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) to discuss the path forward for the legislation. Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), along with Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.), have been engaged on the school meals issue.

This package is a big deal. Advocates estimate the free meal waivers allowed 22 million kids to receive meals pre-pandemic, along with an additional 10 million kids during the pandemic.

The effort faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

From Punchbowl News