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

photo courtesy of Lara Angus
Kate Syson, Sharon Fischer and Allan King pose with the Zamboni on Stettler’s newest skating spot.
photo courtesy of Lara Angus
Stettler Elementary leadership take the Zamboni for a spin

Sharon Fischer and Kate Syson lend a hand for Stettler’s new skating spot

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta adds 463 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

The central zone has 818 active cases

blessing
Bentley Blessing Pantry continues to faithfully serve the community

‘We just wanted to make everyone aware that we are still here to serve you throughout this coming year.’

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Red Fraggle, one of Jim Henson Company’s Fraggle Rock characers, is shown at Time To Play Holiday Show, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010, in New York. The Jim Henson Company says production has officially started in Calgary on a reboot of the original 1980s children’s puppet series, which was filmed in Toronto.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Lennihan
‘Fraggle Rock’ children’s puppet series reboot starts production in Calgary

A spokesperson says the new series will stream on Apple TV plus

Black Press file photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate fatal pedestrian collision

A 37-year-old man from Maskwacis has died in hospital as a result of his injuries.

A registered nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Yukon’s Minister of Community Services, John Streiker, says he’s outraged that a couple from outside the territory travelled to a remote community this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-POOL
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail

Metis Nation of B.C. President Clara Morin Dal Col poses in this undated handout photo. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Metis Nation of B.C. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Metis Nation of B.C. suspends president, citing ‘breach’ of policies, procedures

Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Blackfalds RCMP investigate fatal collision

Preliminary investigation revealed a south bound pickup truck collided with an eastbound car

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Most Read