Hunger has long been a problem in America, But in 2021, We Have The Opportunity To Fix The Food Crisis

Now that the Missouri legislative session has ended (read the MO Legislative Session Wrap Up Blog HERE and join us on Friday, June 4th at 12pm for our Legislative Session Wrap-up Event by registering HERE), it is time to turn our advocacy efforts towards Washington D.C.. In the coming months, there will be many opportunities for federal level advocacy specifically around the issues of the Empower Missouri Food Security Coalition. Two of the most pressing advocacy needs include the passage of The American Families Plan and Child Nutrition Reauthorization.

The American Families Plan:

On April 28th, President Biden released his American Families Plan, which includes deep investments that aims to help America’s kids, families and economy. Within this plan are expanded supports for our vital safety net programs, including many of the federally funded nutrition programs. COVID-19 brought to light how critical nutrition programs are for our kids. It was especially evident when schools were closed and kids could no longer access free school breakfasts and lunches. With schools shut down and children learning from home, many families were struggling with educating their children and with affording enough food to feed them. The American Families Plan ensures that children have access to healthy and nutritious food all year round including when they are not in their school building. The plan includes:

  • Expanding the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer Program to all students that are eligible to receive free meals during the school year. This provides families with a monthly benefit on an EBT card that they can use to purchase food for their families while kids are home from school in the summer. 
  • Increasing the number of schools that are able to offer free meals to all children through expanding community eligibility and making it easier for schools to qualify and run the program. 
  • Expanding automatic eligibility for free school meals. The proposal would make children who receive Medicaid or SSI automatically eligible for free school meals. This proposal reduces administrative paperwork for schools and allows for easier access to school meals.
  • Increasing funding to schools to help them increase the nutritional value of the meals they serve. Healthy food is expensive and this addition would allow schools to increase their meals’ nutritional value and appeal. 

Child Nutrition Reauthorization:

Every five years, Congress has the opportunity to reauthorize many of the child nutrition programs through Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR). The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was the last time CNR took place. That Act technically expired on September 30, 2015 but the programs it authorized continue to operate. In 2021, Congress will again look to reauthorize the child nutrition programs. With this reauthorization, Congress has an opportunity to improve the health of America’s children by protecting and strengthening the federally funded child nutrition programs. 

Our national partner, The Food Research and Action Center, has put together a list of CNR priorities for 2021, including:

  • Increasing investment in Out of School Time Programs: Increasing the reach of summer meals programs, streamlining operations to reduce unnecessary red tape, building upon the success of P-EBT program by developing a wide reaching Summer EBT Program, and reaching more children through increasing alternative delivery models.
  • Making changes to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP): Allowing for CACFP to provide afternoon snacks and suppers for full day childcare, streamlining access to reduce red tape and increase participation, improving area eligibility to reach child care providers in more rural and low income areas, and increasing reimbursements for providers.
  • Strengthening the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs: Expanding community eligibility to allow for more schools to be able to offer free meals to all students and allowing for more direct certification of students to reduce paperwork and increase access.
  • Increasing access to the Supplemental Nutrition Program from Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program: Extending certification periods and allowing for enrollment of children until age 6, continuing to allow for remote enrollment and remote services, and expanding research in underserved communities in the hopes of increased participation in the program. 

The time is right for advocacy on these two important policy packages! This summer and fall the Empower Missouri Food Security Coalition will be organizing advocacy calls with many of the members of our federal delegation. To learn more about these issues or to be included in these advocacy opportunities reach out to the Food Security Coalition Coordinator, Christine Woody at christine@empowermissouri.org

In Solidarity, 

Christine Woody
Senior Policy and Organizing Coordinator