Senators Warner and Kaine introduce bill to extend free school lunches

Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 4:08 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Many Albemarle County students and families who rely on free school lunches during the summer months may get that option a little longer.

Roughly 30% of county students rely on provided school lunch, according to Albemarle County Public Schools Spokesperson Phil Giaramita.

U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are introducing the Support Kids Not Red Tape Act to help remove food insecurity over the summer break.

“A lot of these kids, if they don’t get that lunch, they may go hungry all day,” Sen. Warner said.

“We gave the USDA flexibility they could let families come to schools and pick up a week of meals at the time during school closures. Many districts used their school bus drivers, and they turned them into meal delivery drivers,” Sen. Kaine said.

The measure would extend that flexibility to September 2023.

“This is really important in the midst of this two year emergency when we’re still not completely done with it,” Kaine said.

Warner says some school districts reached out wanting that extra help. ACPS is one that would benefit from this extension.

“The program that made all students eligible for free breakfast and lunch bumped up our numbers from about serving 5,000 lunches a day to more than 8,000, 2,000 breakfasts to more than 4,000,” Giaramita said Tuesday, April 5.

The proposed bill would also students to automatically qualify, meaning parents wouldn’t need to apply or show proof.

“One of the real challenges that we’ve had, or obstacles that we’ve had to the free and reduced lunch program - a federal program for years - has been that we know many families who would qualify don’t submit applications for one reason or another,” Giaramita said.

Unfortunately, the senators’ bill would add pressure to the staffing shortages at the schools.

“We’ve got some work to do and in recruiting additional staff members to prepare these meals and to help with their distributions,” Giaramita said.

Both senators say the bill will have a better chance of passing if it can get attached to a bigger collection of bills.

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