Before serving lunch at Hunt Middle School, Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) today announced his co-sponsorship of two bills that would make summer meals more available to kids in need. Welch was joined by Doug Davis, Director of the Burlington School Food Project, Anore Horton, Nutrition Initiatives Director at Hunger Free Vermont, and Jan Kallio, SNAP Program Specialist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"For too many kids in need, the meals they eat at school are the only nutritious meals available to them. The importance of eating nutritious meals does not end during the summer break," Rep. Welch said. "Children should not go hungry, whether school is in session or not. Well-fed children are happier, healthier, and more engaged in academic and recreational activities. With the help of this legislation, children in need will have a healthier and more productive summer, better preparing them for the school year ahead."
The Summer Meals Act of 2015 would redefine "areas in which poor economic conditions exist" to areas in which at least 40% (currently, 50%) of the children have been determined to be eligible for free or reduced price school meals under the school lunch and breakfast programs. It also expands the type of institutions that are eligible to serve three meals (or two meals and a snack) in a single day of operation.
"We need the Summer Meals Act in order to expand not only free summer meals to more children, but to also expand the number of sites that can serve those meals, and to expand meals to children no matter the day, week, or part of the year," said Abby Nelson, Education Director at VT FEED and NOFA VT.
The Stop Child Summer Hunger Act of 2015 would require the Department of Agriculture to establish a program to provide eligible households with summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards so children have access to food during the summer months. This would reduce food insecurity and improve nutrition for needy children, provide Vermont families access to fresh local foods, and support the Vermont's agricultural economy.
"I am grateful to Peter for his leadership in co-sponsoring these two Summer Food Service Program access bills," said Doug Davis, Director of the Burlington School Food Project. "Summer meals are a vital piece of the food security safety net here in Burlington and throughout Vermont. Anytime we can increase a child's summer access to safe, nutritious and local food, we build a stronger foundation for healthier start to the school year."
Welch also voiced his strong support for the partnership between NOFA-VT, the Winooski and St. Johnsbury Farmers Markets, and the local summer meals sites in July to offer free weekend meals at farmers markets. On four weekends, kids and teens age 18 and under can eat for free at the markets with no application or registration necessary.
Meals at the Winooski Farmers Market (in partnership with the City of Winooski and the Community Center) are available on the following Sundays: July 17, 24 and 31 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Meals at the St. Johnsbury Farmer Market are available on the following Saturdays: July 23 and 30 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.