Senators Casey and Fetterman Introduce Legislation to Combat Student Hunger

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and John Fetterman (D-PA) introduced two bills on Wednesday aimed at expanding access to free or reduced-price meals for millions of American children. The proposed legislation seeks to address the long-standing issue of food insecurity among students, which can significantly hinder their academic performance.

The bills aim to broaden the eligibility criteria for students to receive free or reduced-price school meals. They also propose lowering the threshold required for school districts to offer free meals to all students and increasing reimbursements to cover meal costs. This approach ensures that financial constraints do not compromise student access to nutritious meals.

“Children should be able to focus on learning without worrying about where their next meal is going to come from,” said Senator Casey. He emphasized the importance of these bills in supporting the 13 million children in the U.S. who lack consistent access to food.

Senator Fetterman echoed these sentiments, highlighting the fundamental responsibility to ensure children have enough to eat. “It’s simply unacceptable that children in our nation suffer from food insecurity because of excessive red tape and petty political games in Washington,” he said. He stressed the need for cutting through bureaucratic hurdles to improve nutrition programs.

The School Hunger Elimination Act aims to expand student access to free or reduced-price meals by enhancing direct certification processes. This process identifies and enrolls eligible students more efficiently. The bill also amends the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), a tool that allows schools in high-need communities to provide free meals to all students. By lowering the percentage of students required for a district to qualify for CEP, more schools can participate. Additionally, the bill mandates higher reimbursement rates for districts adopting CEPs to help cover the costs of providing free meals.

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The Nutrition Red Tape Reduction Act complements this effort by further reducing the threshold for districts to qualify for CEP from 50% to 25% student participation. This change aligns with a 2023 ruling by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and would expand eligibility, allowing more schools to offer free meals to all students.

These bills address critical child hunger issues by increasing access to free or reduced-price meals and ensuring schools receive adequate funding. Food insecurity is not just a health issue; it affects students’ ability to concentrate, learn, and succeed academically. By removing barriers to receiving nutritious meals, these legislative measures aim to create a healthier and more equitable future for all children.

The implications of these bills extend beyond individual health. Well-fed students are more likely to perform better in school, leading to improved educational outcomes and long-term societal benefits. Ensuring that all children have access to nutritious food is a step toward closing the education gap and fostering an environment where every student can thrive.

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