U.S. Congressman David Scott and Kyle Waide, President and CEO of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, met at Leapfrog Academy of Excellence in Union City recently to discuss the importance of the Summer Food Service Program — the federal nutrition program that feeds hungry children in Georgia and across the country. During the school year, 22 million children rely on the National School Lunch Program for free and reduced price meals. When school lets out for the Summer, those daily meals go away. Even if summer hunger is temporary, its impact can last a lifetime, according to officials. Children who miss breakfast and lunch are more likely to be sick, inattentive and disruptive when they return to the classroom. Leapfrog Academy of Excellence provides daycare, summer camp, preschool, afterschool programs, and they make use of the Summer Food Service Program, among others, to assure they can serve hearty meals to enrolled children. The event included a site visit and additional discussion of upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation.

Every five years, Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) provides Congress with an opportunity to improve and strengthen the federal nutrition and school meal programs, stated officials. The national Free & Reduced Price Breakfast and Lunch Program is the CNR funding stream most familiar to the general public, and the Summer Food Service Program has grown over time. “It’s been too long since we’ve had an updated child nutrition bill,” said Scott. “We’ve got to address the needs of children who don’t have enough to eat.”

The last CNR, known as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, expired in 2015 and funding has been allocated each year since according to the now 9-year-old guidelines. New legislation is needed to support not just K-12 school year and summer meals, but also programs serving the very youngest children through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants & Children and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

This year, Congress has an important opportunity to streamline several programs, cutting red tape and paperwork for meal providers, according to officials. Advocates are encouraging Congress to expand eligibility for WIC up through a child’s sixth birthday, and to continue important farm-to-school programming that was first introduced in 2010. These successful, cost-effective federal nutrition programs play a critical role in helping children in low-income families achieve access to child care, educational and enrichment activities while improving overall nutrition, health and development, as well as academic achievement.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry has already held a hearing on Child Nutrition Reauthorization, and the Food Bank is urging House leaders to push for a bill by the end of the year. To learn more about Child Nutrition Reauthorization, contact Lauren Waits, Director of Government Affairs at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, at lauren.waits@acfb.org.

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