Groups unite to urge US to extend food aid to schoolchildren

Groups unite to urge US to extend food aid to schoolchildren

Groups unite to urge US to extend food aid to schoolchildren

NEW YORK — A high-profile coalition of educators, activists and philanthropists — including the American Federation of Teachers, the NAACP and the charity World Central Kitchen — is urging Congress to extend and expand emergency provisions that allow school districts nationwide to feed millions of children during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are urging you to rapidly pass legislation to address the nation’s hunger crisis,” the group writes in a letter. “This is a national humanitarian crisis that requires immediate action and innovation across several fronts.”

The July 6 letter is addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy. It was given to The Associated Press on Thursday in an attempt to apply pressure on lawmakers for action on the HEROES Act.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.7 million school employees, told the AP she and the signatories are hoping for immediate help and a long-term, structural rethinking of food in America.

“In a terrible pandemic with terrible unemployment, with terrible food insecurity, why are we not doing more?” she asked. “It really is re-imagining our public assets, our public institutions, to be a real safety net for people.”

Another signatory, chef José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen, which has distributed 35 million meals since the pandemic began, said: “We need to go bold. If we don’t go bold now, when?”

The pandemic has killed more than 150,000 people in the United States, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It has closed schools and businesses and devastated the economy, costing tens of millions of people their jobs. President Donald Trump has pushed for schools to reopen — even threatening to withhold federal funds from districts that remain closed — despite health officials’ concerns about spreading the deadly virus.

During the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a series of waivers to make it easier for schools and community organizations to serve free meals through federal nutrition programs. These waivers have allowed for a variety of innovative strategies, such as drive-through pick-up of children’s meals by adults, lifting area eligibility rules to reach more families and distributing multiple days’ worth of meals at once.

The group is pushing the Republican-led Senate and Trump to adopt the HEROES Act, which extends unemployment benefits to some workers and expands the rules under which school districts can distribute food during emergencies. The measure has already been passed by the Democratic-led House.

The coalition also is seeking a 15% increase in food stamp assistance, also known as SNAP, and an extension of the program that allows children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals at school to get extra food benefits.

The letter was signed by a broad coalition of advocates and social groups, including the Hispanic Federation, the National Immigration Law Center, the Emerson Collective, Share Our Strength and Hunger Free America.

The coalition’s letter points out that six in 10 students in California and Kentucky are eligible for federally subsidized meals, while in New York the number is just under half of all students. Pelosi and McCarthy represent California, McConnell represents Kentucky and Schumer is from New York.

Andrés told the AP he hopes $900 million can be set aside for school meals and waivers can be extended for poor families. But he also argued that money needs to be invested long term in farmers to bring them into the equation.

“I don’t think we want to see images of an America with long lines of cars waiting for their weekly box of vegetables and fruits. This shouldn’t be happening,” he said. “Let’s try a 360-degree, three-dimensional approach.”

The coalition said it believes that schools — with often the biggest kitchen in the neighbourhood — should be transformed into community kitchens during moments of crisis.

“There’s so much food insecurity in the country right now, why can’t we more robustly use school kitchens in conjunction with restaurants and other places?” Weingarten asked.

Andrés said school meals shouldn’t be political. “There are hungry children in red and blue states,” he said. But he specifically called out McConnell for not tackling food issues in the Senate or his own state. “I’m expecting better from a leader like him,” Andrés said.

In response, a representative for McConnell said Thursday the senator was proud to have to helped shepherd $25 billion in food assistance into law earlier this year as part of the CARES Act. The representative also pointed to comments McConnell made to PBS on Wednesday in which he said making sure children are well fed is “extremely important.”

___

Mark Kennedy is at https://twitter.com/KennedyTwits.

Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press

Food

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Stettler resident Jaden Norman is pictured here outside of the Stettler Learning Centre where she lends a helping hand as a volunteer tutor. photo contributed
Stettler’s Jaden Norman has discovered the many joys of giving back

National Volunteer Week runs April 18th to 24th

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
A commercial building, housing two businesses, in Stettler was completed destroyed by a fire Thursday. (Photo courtesy Stettler Regional Fire Department)
Fire destroys commercial building in Stettler

Giant plume of smoke attracts spectators

Stettler County
Highlights from County of Stettler council – April 14th

The County of Stettler has received a clean audit for the 16th year in a row

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary schools to shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12 due to COVID-19

The change, due to COVID-19, is to last for two weeks

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

Most Read