This week, the White House has released details on its American Families Plan (AFP), a legislative proposal that would significantly lower the rates of childhood hunger in Massachusetts and across the country. The pandemic increased food insecurity to staggering levels with nearly 1 in 5 Massachusetts households with children experiencing food insecurity.
Before the pandemic, 1 in 10 Massachusetts children were food insecure. That is not a normal that should be acceptable to anyone. The American Families Plan puts forth policies and funding that would profoundly reduce food insecurity particularly among families with children.
“We applaud the President for using his platform to raise the issue of hunger and for putting forward necessary and impactful solutions. We will advocate for these to be passed by Congress and signed into law," said Erin McAleer, CEO of Project Bread. “We are grateful to our entire delegation for making hunger a priority and in particular Chairman McGovern for shining a light on the issue of food insecurity at a Rules Committee hearing yesterday.”
Before COVID-19, 491,116 students in Massachusetts ate school meals every day. This represents only 51.1% eating school lunch and 22.3% eating school breakfast. After the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school meals is the largest anti-hunger program providing students up to 47% of their daily calories. Research has also found that providing students with access to school meals reduces food insecurity not just for children, but for the entire household.
During the summer, children and teens lose this daily access to healthy meals provided at school. In place of school breakfast and lunch children in low-income communities may be able to receive meals at schools, parks, community centers, libraries, and other locations through the Summer Food Service Program. With over 20 years of experience working with summer meal sponsors, Project Bread knows that these meals are incredibly important, but reach far too few children. In 2019, less than 11.5% of students who ate school lunch utilized the Summer Food Service Program in Massachusetts.
The American Families Plan will improve access by:
Altogether these proposals would increase the number of individuals students eligible for free or reduced-price meals as well as how many schools can adopt school meals for all under CEP. This represents some big steps toward school meals for all. We continue to urge Congress and the Administration to make all school meals free for every student. In the meantime, we will continue to advocate on the state level with the Feed Kids Coalition for School Meals for All.
In addition to these proposals to address hunger, the AFP provides additional supports to families with children that would greatly impact food insecurity by either increasing household food budgets directly or indirectly. These include:
Project Bread will continue to monitor and advocate for these changes as the American Families Plan heads to Congress. Join the Project Bread Action Team to get updates and learn about opportunities to take action.
Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline (1-800-645-8333) operates Monday - Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10a.m. to 2 p.m. Assistance is offered in 160 languages and a dedicated line is available to those who are hearing impaired.