How the American Families Plan would reduce childhood hunger

Project Bread

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White House has released details on its American Families Plan (AFP)

The proposed American Families Plan would significantly lower the rates of childhood hunger in Massachusetts and across the country...


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.

Two dads feed their baby girl in the kitchen
Two dads feed their baby girl in the kitchen.

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.”

...here's how.


Increasing Access to School and Summer Meals

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:

  • Expanding Summer EBT to all students eligible to receive free or reduced-price school meals. During the pandemic, Pandemic EBT provided meals to roughly 678,000 Massachusetts children and teens. Summer EBT will use this existing infrastructure to substantially reduce summer hunger. While families will still be able to utilize the Summer Food Service Program, Summer EBT will allow them to purchase and prepare food in the ways most convenient and culturally appropriate to their family.

 

  • Expanding who qualifies for free school meals by using Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) data to directly certify households in addition to the current program data such as SNAP and TAFDC. Massachusetts has participated in a pilot using Medicaid data since May 2017, but this would make the policy nationwide while also adding SSI.

 

 

  • Expanding the Community Eligibility for elementary schools by lowering the threshold for eligibility. Currently 40 percent of students must be identified as low-income for the school to be able to participate in CEP. The Biden Administration wants to reduce this to 25 percent for elementary schools.  In additional the American Families Plan would further increase the reimbursement rate for elementary schools. The Administration estimates an additional 10,000 elementary school, nationally, would take advantage of CEP with this change.

 

  • Investing $1 billion in improving school meal quality. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was a landmark bill that dramatically improved school meal standards. Through our work in schools, Project Bread knows additional funding will help more school achieve these standards and allow schools go above and beyond to provide the best quality meals to students.

 

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.

Other anti-poverty provisions

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:

  • Lifting the ban on SNAP eligibility for individuals convicted of drug-related felonies. Massachusetts is one of 26 states have opted to waive this ban on SNAP, but the AFP would make this national policy.

 

  • Providing universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, many of which would gain access to the National School Lunch Program or the Child and Adult Care Food Program
Baby waiting to be spoon fed
Baby waiting to be spoon fed.
  • Ensuring access for childcare for low- and middle-income families by limiting they spend on more than 7 percent of their income on childcare. This would also increase access to the Child and Adult Care Food Program for children who attend participating childcare centers.

 

  • Extending the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit which are among the most effective anti-poverty policies. The Center of Budget and Public Priorities estimates 1.1 million children would benefit from the Child Tax Credit expansion, alone, and 55,000 would be lifted out of poverty in Massachusetts.

 

  • Expanding Affordable Care Act premiums tax credits which would reduce poverty and hunger, particularly in families with children.

 

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.

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