September 2015 Legislative Update

Hunger is a symptom of lack of resources. While the recession may be over, the number of Americans still struggling with this basic need remains unchanged. Unemployment, low wages, and high housing costs have been identified as the major causes of hunger. The problem of hunger here is compounded given New Jersey’s high cost of living. In addition, cuts to the benefit level of those already receiving assistance further threaten New Jersey households. Continuing to strengthen and support federal nutrition programs is more important than ever. Summary of important legislation follows.

Improved Child Nutrition Programs
On September 30, the child nutrition bill will expire. This legislation helps feed millions of children by supporting school nutrition programs, summer food, child care programs and WIC. We need your help to convince Congress to get to work and make passing a strong child nutrition bill that invests in our nation’s children a priority.

Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) Policy Recommendations
• Strengthen States’ Ability to Reach Kids During the Summer and weekends
• Streamline Regulations for Community Based Providers
• Leverage Schools Beyond the School Day
• Strengthen Access and Quality in School Meal Programs and WIC

ACTION: In anticipation of CNR, several marker bills have been introduced (see below). Ask your Senators to co-sponsor one of these important pieces of legislation that would allow more children to be fed especially during the summer months. Only 19% of New Jersey’s eligible children access summer meals. The Community FoodBank of New Jersey joins Feeding America in urging Congress to help close the large summer meal gap.

Calling Congress is easy. Here’s how:
Just dial Feeding America’s toll free number, (888) 398-8702, listen to the pre-recorded message and enter your zip code when prompted. Press 1 to connect with your first Senator and deliver this message:
As a constituent and supporter of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, I urge you to cosponsor the Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act of 2015 (S.1966)* and the Summer Meals Act (S.613/H.R.1728). These bills will help community organizations like our food bank reach more kids during the summer, make it easier to operate summer meal programs by simplifying paperwork, and strengthen child nutrition programs by giving us more options to ensure kids get the food they need to succeed.

Be sure to dial back in and speak with both of your senators and your representative. Thanks for all you do to help fight hunger in NJ!

* Thank Senator Menendez who has signed on as a co-sponsor of this legislation!

The Summer Meals Act of 2015 (House bill H.R.1278 / S613) introduced by Senators Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Representatives Don Young (R-AK) and Rick Larsen (D-WA) would strengthen, protect, and expand access to the Summer Nutrition Programs. This Act would lower the area eligibility test to 40% (from 50%) allowing community-based organizations to increase participation when children in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, allow local government agencies and private nonprofit organizations to feed children year-round through the Summer Food Service Program, provide funding for transportation grants to fund innovative approaches and mobile meal trucks and allow all sites to add a third meal strengthening programs serving working families.

The Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act of 2015 (S1966) introduced by Senators John
Boozman (R-AR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) would enable a comprehensive solution to summer child hunger for children in communities most underserved by the program. This includes the option to implement summer electronic benefit transfer (EBT) or non-congregate feeding programs. With these improvements, as many as 6.5 million children who are underserved by the program currently could get the food they need during the summer months. These policies complement the site-based model and strengthen the overall program thereby improving summer nutrition for low-income children no matter where they live. This legislation modeled on the successful demonstration projects USDA administered to test both program options gives
communities additional proven methods to better reach eligible children. Senator Menendez has signed on as a co-sponsor of this legislation!

State Update:
Sadly in New Jersey child nutrition programs are seriously under-utilized. The school breakfast program, for instance, provides free or reduced-price breakfasts for children in need. It has a proven track record of enhancing academic performance and improving child health behavior. Despite the progress made in recently years, of the 519,000 New Jersey students eligible for school breakfast, only 41% received it leaving 308,000 children unserved and millions of dollars in federal funds on the table. Similarly the summer feeding program served only 81,000 children in 2014, reaching only 19% of those eligible.

ACTION: To increase participation in School Breakfast or Summer Feeding in your district join the Food for Thought Campaign sponsored by the Advocates for Children in New Jersey.

Ask your state representatives to support the expansion of School Breakfast both fiscally and administratively. By investing state funds to reinstate supplemental funding, New Jersey can provide incentives to adopt “breakfast after the bell” policies in each district. Legislation A4030 and S2669 establishes a “breakfast after the bell” incentive fund of 10 cents per meal and is moving through committees. Both federal and state elected official contact information can be found easily using your zip code thanks to the League of Women Voters.  When you visit the League’s website, follow the prompts on the right-hand side of page:  Contact Elected Officials.