MDHS Director Michael J. Wilson Makes the Case for Healthy School Meals for All at U.S. House Subcommittee Hearing
BALTIMORE, June 11, 2021 – Maryland Hunger Solutions Director Michael J. Wilson spoke during a House Education and Labor Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee Hearing, Ending Child Hunger: Priorities for Child Nutrition Reauthorization, about how Congress can support the millions of students experiencing food insecurity while they are in school and at home.
“The upcoming child nutrition reauthorization process and economic recovery legislation present the opportunity for Congress to make much-needed improvements to the child nutrition programs to reduce childhood hunger, decrease childhood overweight and obesity, improve child nutrition and wellness, enhance child development and school readiness, and support academic achievement,” said Wilson.
The hearing highlighted that schools have been able to offer school meals to all children at no charge during the COVID-19 pandemic, which will continue through the 2021-2022 school year, and the successful nationwide Pandemic EBT program for children, which provides nutrition resources to low-income families who lost access to school meals when schools closed in response to the pandemic.
The School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program provide funding to school districts to serve nutritious breakfasts, lunches, and afterschool snacks. They help reduce hunger, improve nutrition, and support academic achievement. These programs have an important role to play as the nation recovers from the educational, health, and economic impacts of the pandemic. School Breakfast Program helps children start the school day ready to learn, but the program misses too many children who would benefit from a healthy school breakfast. In the 2018-2019 school year (prior to the pandemic) only 61.8 low-income students ate school breakfast for every 100 who ate school lunch in Maryland according to last year’s Creating Healthier Students & Better Learners with the School Breakfast Program: Maryland School Breakfast Report.
School meals are one of the federal government’s most powerful tools for delivering good nutrition to children. Unfortunately, many families who are struggling do not qualify for free school meals.
“As millions of children and families recover from the impacts of the pandemic, there has never been a more important time to make significant investments in the child nutrition programs,” said Wilson. “We need to expand program access and participation, ensure nutrition quality, and simplify program administration and operation.”
Wilson encouraged Congress to make significant investments in the child nutrition programs to end childhood hunger:
- Allow all schools to offer school meals to all students, which supports academic achievement and health and eliminates school meal debt and the lunch shaming that can stem from it.
- Provide EBT to all students who are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals during the summer, school breakfast, and emergency school closures during the pandemic.
- Strengthen the link between summer and afterschool programs and summer and afterschool meals by making the eligibility rules consistent with education funding for summer and afterschool programs, streamlining administrative rules for programs serving children during the summer and after school, allowing children to receive three meals a day during the summer, and providing funding for transportation grants.
Congress has a historic opportunity to pass a strong reauthorization that will improve the health of millions of our nation’s children, reduce administrative work for school districts and improve program integrity within the school nutrition programs.
You can read Wilson’s full testimony and watch the entire hearing here.
Maryland Hunger Solutions works to end hunger and improve the nutrition, health, and well-being of children and families in Maryland.