The U.S. House of Representatives has voted by voice vote to pass the Keep Kids Fed Act in the amended form passed yesterday in the U.S. Senate. The House had already passed a version of the bill earlier in the day, but the Senate was unwilling to accept one provision that eliminated the reduced-price meal category. The House accepted the change with this vote.
The $3 billion package, which covers the 2022-23 school year…
• increases federal reimbursements for every school lunch by 40 cents and every school breakfast by 15 cents, above the annual inflationary adjustment scheduled for July 1;
• extends no-cost waivers, including those for schools unable to meet nutrition standards due to supply chain disruptions and to reduce administrative and reporting burdens; and
• extends waivers for 2022 summer meal programs.
"The Keep Kids Fed Act provides critical aid to school nutrition professionals confronting a continued onslaught of challenges in their effort to ensure students are nourished and ready to learn," said School Nutrition Association President Beth Wallace, MBA, SNS. “Supply chain breakdowns, skyrocketing costs and severe labor shortages, expected to persist well into next school year, have prevented school meal programs from returning to normal operations.”
Wallace did express SNA’s disagreement with the Senate’s amendment to maintain the reduced-price category.
“We are extremely disappointed Senate leaders were forced to strike a key provision to eliminate the reduced-price meal co-pay for eligible families, struggling with rising food and gas costs,” she said. “Throughout the pandemic, free school meals have ensured students are nourished and ready to learn. The loss of free school meals puts too many students at risk of going hungry."
The bill also does not grant the general desire of the school nutrition community to maintain the universal free meal system that has been in place since early in the pandemic and which were set to expire June 30. The program will now revert to the previous system where families have to apply and meet income thresholds, except in CEP (Community Eligibility Program) schools or districts with extremely high poverty levels, where all meals are provided free.