In a bipartisan effort, Congress has passed the 'Keep Kids Fed Act.' This new legislation is designed to help feed America's hungry children by extending the pandemic waivers. The bill will provide funding to help keep tens of millions of children fed and give districts the funding and flexibility to deal with supply chain and labor issues. However, many are concerned that it's not adequate enough.

"I just feel like it’s a case of Congress being able to sleep well at night thinking that they fixed the problem, but it’s a Band-Aid.” - Sherri Parks, Surry County Schools Nutrition Director

What It Will Do

By a 376 to 42 vote, lawmakers approved the nearly $3 billion bill, just a week before pandemic school waivers were set to end on June 30. It will continue to provide the flexibility to deal with supply chain issues and labor shortages by waiving penalties for those that can't always meet federal nutrition requirements. As many schools still struggle to get their hands on whole-grain foods, milk, and certain vegetables.

Also, schools and community groups would be able to operate as they did during the previous two summers. They're allowed to have more distribution locations, not just in areas with high poverty rates, and they can deliver meals to children in rural areas. They can also continue to provide children and parents with grab-and-go meals, instead of requiring them to eat on-site. Additionally, families will still be able to pick up multiple meals at once.

According to an analysis done by No Kid Hungry, these provisions secured roughly 95 million meals for children in need. And the new legislation has been praised by many:

“Schools and parents can rest easy knowing that help is on the way so kids can continue getting school and summer meals.” - Senator Stabenow, U.S. Senator (D)

What Critics Are Saying

While many consider this to be a big win, the bill is facing a great deal of criticism as well. School nutrition directors say that the 'Keep Kids Fed Act' is disappointing and misleading.

In a statement from School Nutrition Association President Beth Wallace, stated

"We are extremely disappointed Senate leaders were forced to strike a key provision to eliminate the reduced-price meal co-pay for eligible families, struggling with rising food and gas costs. Throughout the pandemic, free school meals have ensured students are nourished and ready to learn. The loss of free school meals puts too many students at risk of going hungry."

The proposed expansion would force most low-income families to reapply for the program and children who qualify for reduced-price meals to resume paying for breakfast and lunch. Also, it will continue to provide states additional money to compensate for greater food and labor expenses, although not as much as previously. As a result, millions of children are at risk of losing free school lunches.

Not to mention, because the bill was passed so the last minute, schools are having a difficult time pivoting quickly.  As a result, people many are concerned that it is a temporary and weekend version of the pandemic waivers that preceded it.