Congress passed a bill Friday that aims to maintain the expanded, pandemic-era distribution of free meals for all students this summer.
The final passage of the Keep Kids Fed Act in the US House came less than a week before the rules for child nutrition programs were set to expire on June 30.
“Our action today stops a dangerous hunger cliff: ensuring universal free food for all children this summer, while helping schools keep up with supply chain shortages and rising costs for the upcoming school year,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, in a statement.
The bill now goes to President Joe Biden for his signature.
Read more: How this bill can help meet the shortage of funds for school meals
The law aims to expand the rules, which were adopted soon after COVID-19 hit nationwide, so that summer food delivery sites can operate in any community with need, rather than those where less Have a high concentration of income kids, and offer – go food.
The rules allowing all students to receive free school meals, regardless of family income levels, are still due to expire before the next academic year.
A bipartisan agreement that reached the Senate this week would have allowed children who are eligible to eat a reduced-price lunch for free in the coming school year, but that provision was removed from the final agreement. was.
“I’m disappointed we had to make this change. But without this bill, we wouldn’t have support for children at all,” said Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabeno of Michigan, chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. .
Advocates said the Congress’s action will bring relief to families, but they are disappointed that children will not get free food at low-cost lunches while families are grappling with rising food and gas prices. They also say there will be fewer dining venues this summer due to the late timing of the law.
“Everything is moving, food, gas, housing. Families that are in that category often make a little too much money so they can’t get support from various programs, now school meals, but they don’t make enough to cover basic needs, so we’re putting Those families are in a dire situation,” said Lisa Davis, senior vice president of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.