Standing at Gerald Ryan Outreach Center, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, joined by Presiding Officer of the Suffolk County Legislature DuWayne Gregory, Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer, Long Island Cares and Island Harvest, discussed bipartisan legislation which would expand the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Summer Food Service Program. The legislation would help improve nutrition and enhance learning in underserved areas by better integrating summer education and meals programs, making it easier for public-private partner organizations to participate in the summer meals program, and by providing a third meal for children who attend evening enrichment programs.
"Many children receive their only meal at school during the year, and when school is out for the summer, they go hungry," said Senator Gillibrand, first New York Senator to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years. "The bipartisan Summer Meals Act would help combat this problem by strengthening the USDA summer nutrition program to help more children across America access quality meals during the summer months. Every child who is hungry should have food year round."
"As Long Island families continue to feel the lingering effects of the recession and Hurricane Sandy, it is vital that children's access to fresh and nutritious food not be limited to the school year," said Congressman Peter King
"I applaud Senator Gillibrand for her bipartisan approach to dealing with an issue that affects so many families and young students," said Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer. "The Summer Meals Act will go a long way in making sure that students in our area are able to get the nutritional meals that they need during the long summer months."
"We are grateful for Senator Gillibrand's proactive stance in addressing the critical issue of childhood hunger," said Randi Shubin Dresner, President and CEO of Island Harvest, Long Island's largest hunger relief organization. "The Summer Meals Act is a much needed step to ensure that all children have uninterrupted access to healthy food throughout the entire year."
Paule T. Pachter's CEO Long Island Cares said, "The increase in the number of children on Long Island that rely upon the Regional Food Bank and other organizations for nutritious meals during the summer months is startling. Long Island Cares is deeply grateful to Senator Gillibrand and Congressman King for their leadership and understanding of this issue by proposing much needed legislation on the Federal level to ensure children receive these needed resources."
"Senator Gillibrand's Summer Meals Act addresses a critical problem that so many of Suffolk's families face," said Suffolk County Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory. "By providing low-income children access to high quality education and healthy foods during the summer months we're making a valuable investment in our children's future."
On a typical school day, there were nearly 93,000 students on Long Island who ate a free or reduced priced school lunch. In Nassau County there were 36,691 students and in Suffolk County 56,139 students. However, there were only 3,916 children in Nassau County and 3,064 children in Suffolk County participating in the summer lunch program. Senator Gillibrand's legislation would expand eligibility to an additional 60 schools across Long Island.
The Summer Meals Act would help more children access healthy food by lowering the threshold to allow areas with 40 percent or more of students receiving free or reduced lunch to be eligible for the program. Currently the bar is set at 50 percent. Senator Gillibrand's legislation would expand eligibility to 3.2 million more children.
This legislation would also reduce the paperwork burden for private-public partnerships who want to participate in the program, provide children with transportation to the summer meals sites, and would also offer an additional meal to children who attend evening programs.
The USDA Summer Food Service Program provides low-income children under age 18, who would normally receive free or reduced school lunch, with quality, nutritious food during the summer. Several programs run in tandem with educational enrichment programs to keep children engaged and safe during the summer months. Currently, there are 45 national organizations that have endorsed the Summer Meals Act legislation.