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More observations about our school students from Sen. Jeff Merkley…

After-school learning programs for Lincoln County School District students.

Every child—regardless of the color of their skin, the town they live in, or where their parents work—deserves nutritious meals all year long. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, over half a million people in Oregon, including one in five children, struggled with food insecurity. As kids enjoy their summers and transition back to school, the last thing they should be concerned about is their next meal. 

I joined my colleagues in the Senate and passed the bipartisan Keep Kids Fed Act, a bill that allocates important funding and extends flexibility for communities around the country to provide kids healthy meals this summer and to help support schools and daycares in responding to supply chain challenges and high food costs for the upcoming school year. With 90 percent of schools still facing significant challenges as they return to normal operations, these flexibilities give schools and summer meal programs much-needed support to deal with ongoing food service issues and to keep kids fed. 

Officially signed into law, the bipartisan Keep Kids Fed Act will:

  • Extend flexibilities for summer meals in 2022 by waiving area eligibility, so summer providers can serve all children for free and continue options like meal delivery and grab-and-go.  
  • Extend administrative and paperwork flexibilities for schools through the 2022-23 school year. 
  • Allow students with a family income of 185 percent of poverty or below to qualify for free or reduced-cost meals for the 2022-23 school year.  
  • Increase the reimbursement rate for school lunch and school breakfast to help offset the increased cost of food and operating expenses. Schools will receive an additional 40 cents for each lunch and 15 cents for each breakfast served.   
  • Help some daycares and home care providers offset increased costs by providing additional reimbursement per meal.

Passing the Keep Kids Fed Act is a strong first step in ensuring our kids are kept fed through the school year, but our work is not done. There are still additional steps and action items needed to strengthen child nutrition programs—for example, extending additional waivers and finding a path forward to ensure all families, many whom are struggling with rising food and gas costs, have the option to receive free school meals—keeping all students nourished and ready to learn. Eliminating free school meals puts too many students at risk of going hungry.

There’s no time to waste—this is about the health and wellbeing of our kids. I promise I will continue fighting for Oregonians and supporting legislation that brings us closer to ending hunger in Oregon and beyond.

All my best,
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley

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