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Urge Congress to Maintain Critical Child Nutrition Provisions in the Build Back Better Act

By September 21, 2021September 24th, 2021No Comments

Through the Build Back Better Act, Congress has a historic opportunity to invest nearly $35 billion in Child Nutrition Programs to significantly expand access to healthy school meals and ensure children are well-nourished during the summer months. As 1 in 5 children in New York struggle with food insecurity, and as we work to recover from the vast economic and educational impacts of COVID-19, there has never been a more important time to strengthen these proven anti-hunger programs.

These investments would have substantial benefits for New York, and include several priorities long-championed by Hunger Solutions New York and the broader anti-hunger community.

The child nutrition provisions in the Build Back Better Act would:

  • Significantly improve access to school meals by expanding the reach of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). This could allow New York to provide free school breakfast and lunch statewide, if New York State were able to implement the statewide CEP option. Without the statewide option, New York State could still benefit significantly from increased reimbursements and expanded eligibility under CEP. These improvements could expand CEP participation to 593 schools and bring additional funds to 673 currently participating schools. Combined, these schools serve over 640,000 students. These provisions could result in $64.3 million in additional federal funds for New York schools. A more detailed breakdown of impact shows these provisions would:
    • Improve CEP reimbursement by increasing the reimbursement multiplier from 1.6 to 2.5, which would provide 100 percent free federal reimbursement for all meals for all NY schools currently participating in CEP.
      • This provision would provide 673 current CEP schools with additional federal funding to cover 100 percent of the cost of providing free meals. Many of these schools use local funds to cover the cost of their current universal school meal program. Over 355,000 students attend these schools
    • Improve financial viability for currently eligible schools that are not participating. As a result of the increased multiplier, more schools with an Identified Student Percentage (ISP) of 40 percent or higher will likely adopt CEP.
      • At least 270 new schools—who are currently eligible and not participating in CEP—will adopt CEP because they would receive 100 percent federal funds to provide free school meals for all. This would result in 120,233 additional New York State students attending CEP schools; 59,415 of whom do not currently have access to free meals.
      • This expansion of CEP could improve school meal participation and result in an additional 10,000 kids eating school lunch and an additional 3,600 kids eating breakfast each day.
      • As a result of this increased multiplier, New York State schools would receive an additional $38.8 million in federal funds if all schools in the state with an ISP of 40 percent or higher participated in CEP.
    • Expand eligibility under CEP by lowering the eligibility threshold from 40 to 25 percent. This provision would allow more schools in low-income communities to offer free meals to all students through CEP.
      • This part of the provision would result in at least 323 additional schools becoming eligible to adopt CEP. A total of at least 165,000 kids attend these schools, with at least 98,000 of whom do not currently have access to free meals.
      • This expansion of CEP could improve school meal participation and result in an additional 13,000 kids eating school lunch and an additional 4,000 kids eating breakfast each day.
      • As a result of expanded CEP eligibility, New York State schools could receive an additional $25.5 million in federal funds if all newly eligible CEP schools in the state participated in CEP.

Other child nutrition provisions in the bill would:

  • Expand New York’s Medicaid direct certification and make it available nationwide. In New York, children who participate in Medicaid are certified for free or reduced-price school meals based on their household income. However, this provision would expand this successful practice in New York by extending Medicaid direct certification for free school meals to children who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, guardianship, or adoption assistance payments, or are in kinship care.
  • Establish a nationwide Summer EBT program to provide food benefits for children over the summer months, when they lose access to free or reduced-price school meals. Current summer meal programs reach only 1 in 4 low-income kids in New York. Summer EBT would fill the gap, providing $75 per month in food benefits to an estimated 2.5 million children across the state—and potentially many more when combined with provisions expanding CEP. Most notably, under a statewide CEP option, all students in New York could receive Summer EBT. These benefits are a critical investment to reduce summer child hunger and learning loss, while supporting New York’s grocers and farmers.
  • Make significant investments to support and improve school meal programs. This legislation would provide $500 million for school kitchen equipment grants and $634 million for a Healthy School Meal Incentives demonstration project.

Combined, these proposals ensure critical food access, bolstering children’s mental and physical health and supporting a more equitable recovery from COVID-19.

We call on the House and Senate to maintain these critical child nutrition provisions and quickly pass the Build Back Better Act.

We thank the members of New York’s delegation who have championed these priorities, including House Education and Labor Committee members Rep. Bowman, Rep. Espaillat, Rep. Jones, and Rep. Morelle, who helped advance these provisions; Senator Gillibrand, a tireless champion for free, healthy school meals for all and summer nutrition programs; and Senator Schumer, whose leadership will play a vital role in maintaining these provisions as the budget reconciliation moves forward.

Take Action

Below are three urgent actions you can take to add your voice to the growing list of organizations calling on Congress to make these critical investments to combat childhood hunger.

  1. Sign-on your organization to this letter urging Congress to ensure children have access to the year-round nutrition they need to grow and thrive. The deadline to sign is Monday, September 27, COB.
  2. Call or email your members of Congress, and urge them to maintain the child nutrition provisions and quickly pass the Build Back Better Act. Click here for an email template you can customize to share the importance of these provisions for children in your district, and across New York State.
  3. Tweet your members of Congress. Mix-and-match language from these sample tweets and pair with the sharable graphic below (right click on the image to save to your computer):
    • Now is a critical time for Congress to invest in ending child hunger. The #BuildBackBetterAct could enable free #schoolmeals & #SummerEBT for all NY students! We call on [@MOC] to maintain all child nutrition provisions and quickly pass this Act.
    • Congress has a historic opportunity to expand access to free, healthy #schoolmeals and #SummerEBT. We call on Congress to maintain all of the critical child nutrition provisions and quickly pass the #BuildBackBetterAct [Tag your MOC]
    • #PEBT and free #schoolmeals have been lifelines for families amid COVID-19. The #BuildBackBetterAct expands #SummerEBT and #CEP to support continued food access & a more equitable recovery. We call on Congress to maintain these provisions and pass the #BuildBackBetterAct

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