When COVID-19 prompted colleges and companies throughout the nation to shut in March, college students and their households felt the instant influence, particularly the greater than 330,000 Kansas youngsters (and 20 million nationally) who rely on faculty meals all through the day.
Together with rising unemployment on account of the pandemic, households have been struggling financially to feed their youngsters, who now discover themselves at dwelling full time.
Kansans and organizations acted shortly to arrange meal pick-up websites, together with Summer time Meals Service Packages. Whereas these websites are making an vital distinction, these packages don’t fill all meals wants.
In some areas, as a result of the necessity throughout communities was so important, meal websites started feeding adults, too. One such group is Iola in Allen County, which used grant funds to supply meals to adults. Two weeks into this system, grant dollars started to expire.
In a nationwide survey by Starvation Free America, greater than 35% of oldsters reported slicing the dimensions of meals or skipping meals for his or her youngsters between mid-March and mid-April as a result of they didn’t have the funds for to buy meals.
That’s when Congress created the Pandemic Digital Advantages Switch program, a program that gives school-aged youngsters eligible totally free and reduced-price lunch cash to purchase meals on an ATM-like EBT card, much like how Kansas administers the SNAP meals help. This cash can be utilized to purchase groceries in lieu of college breakfast and/or lunch.
Thus far, greater than 45 states, together with Kansas, have been authorized by the U.S. Division of Agriculture to take part in this system.
For Kansas households, these advantages have been essential in a time of nice want. Becky Osborn of Wichita mentioned: “Pandemic-EBT helped our household by not having to determine which invoice to skip with the intention to put meals on the desk for my daughter. As a result of we had this profit, we had been capable of hold the web turned on so she may proceed her training just about.”
It’s clear this want for expanded entry to meals for youths and their households is extra pressing than ever. New knowledge signifies that over 14 million youngsters skilled meals insecurity in June. Systemic racism has prompted disparities to be extra stark for households and college students of shade. New Census knowledge reveals practically 40% of Black and Latinx households with youngsters are struggling to place meals on the desk.
It doesn’t should be this fashion.
Senate Agriculture, Vitamin and Forestry Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, whose committee has jurisdiction over meals and vitamin points, can embody these provisions in a federal stimulus invoice.
• Prolong P-EBT via summer season and into the following faculty yr to permit eligible youngsters to proceed to entry advantages ought to colleges shut once more or function at diminished hours.
• Develop P-EBT advantages to cowl youngsters below 5 years.
• Be certain that no further legal guidelines are wanted to increase this system ought to closures proceed into the following faculty yr
• Strengthen program implementation by supporting states and directing USDA to work effectively with state companies to manage advantages shortly
With a lot at stake for the way forward for Kansas, conserving our youngsters wholesome, fed and in a secure setting to be taught have to be our first precedence. But when Congress doesn’t act quickly, hundreds of thousands of youngsters may go hungry.
Haley Kottler is the anti-hunger marketing campaign director and Joey Hentzler is the director of advocacy for Kansas Appleseed. Courtney Bollig is the senior affiliate for presidency affairs and communications at The Schooling Belief.