24028500Last year, nearly 1 in 5 children in America suffered from food insecurity. That is a startling, and frankly unacceptable, figure for a country with the amount of wealth and power as the United States. While programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Summer Nutrition Programs, National School Lunch Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) go a long way in fighting child hunger, new investments and innovations are desperately needed to ensure that all children, regardless of income, receive the healthy food they need to grow and thrive.

In its continued efforts to combat child hunger, the Obama Administration recently announced two new initiatives aimed at closing gaps in food and nutrition programs serving America’s kids. The first initiative would be the establishment of a permanent Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) program that will be included in the President’s FY2017 Budget through a $12 billion investment over ten years. Currently, nearly 22 million children receive free and reduced price meals through the National School Lunch Program; however, only about 3 million, or 1 in 6, eligible children continue receiving meals over their summer break through the Summer Nutrition Programs. The creation of a permanent Summer EBT program would provide low-income families with debit cards that can be used to purchase food during the summer months while kids lack access to school meals.

The Obama Administration also announced its plans to begin using Medicaid data in an effort to connect all low-income children to free and reduced priced lunch. USDA will review applications from states interested in efficiently certifying students for the National School Lunch Program through the use of Medicaid data, approving five states for the 2016-2017 school and up to 20 states over the next three years. Using Medicaid data to directly certify students for free and reduced priced lunch is a step in the right direction to reduce paperwork and eliminate the possibility of eligible students slipping through the cracks of the application process.

These announcements from the White House, coupled with the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016 that recently passed through the Senate Agriculture Committee, show a concerted effort in Washington to eliminate child hunger, but there is much more that needs to be done. America’s children need further investments in child nutrition programs in order to expand access to healthy meals year round.

Tweet this now. Obama administration moves to fight #ChildHunger http://bit.ly/1TB6xO2 #InvestInKids 

Do you share our vision of making America a better place to be a child and raise a family? Then you should be a part of The Children’s Network, a movement led by individuals, non-profit organizations, and businesses committed to the health, education, and well-being of children in the United States. Become a part of the network and receive exclusive materials, updates, and opportunities to take action on behalf of our children. 

First Focus is a bipartisan organization dedicating to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. You can support our work by making a donation or joining The Children’s Network to receive updates and action alerts.