Summer vacation shouldn’t mean going hungry for Ohio kids.
Every day, hundreds of thousands of Ohio students receive free or reduced-price lunches at school. One of the many challenges of this pandemic has been ensuring these kids can access healthy and filling meals when school cafeterias have been closed.
Over the past year our school districts and their kitchen staff have done an amazing job ensuring that children still had access to nutritious food even when schools were closed. Food banks like Second Harvest and other community organizations across the state have also played a key role to prevent Ohio kids from going hungry. We need to continue to support those efforts, and take the lessons learned over the past year and use them to strengthen our summer food service program.
This is why I introduced the bipartisan Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act, to make it easier for Ohio kids and their families to access free lunch and snacks through the Summer Food Service Program.
According to the Ohio Department of Education, in 2019, Ohio’s summer nutrition programs reached only about 10 percent of eligible children. We know one challenge is reaching families that live in rural areas or neighborhoods where feeding sites are not located. It’s why our bill would allow sites to offer “grab and go” meals for children to pick up and eat away from the premises, providing flexibility for busy parents who are often juggling work and child care while their children are out of school.
We also know that without a school bus, many children — particularly kids in rural areas — have no way to get to the churches, recreation centers, and parks where meals are served. That’s why our bill would also create an Electronic Benefit Transfer program, to give families money each month to buy lunches for their kids. In USDA pilot programs, summer EBT reduced child hunger by 30 percent, and was particularly helpful for children living in rural communities.
We need to do all we can to support and raise public awareness of these programs. Ohio families need to know the end of the school year doesn’t mean an end to healthy meals for their children.