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

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 first 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

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

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

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

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Black Press File Photo
Maskwacis RCMP lay charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and flight from police

Female victim remains in hospital in serious condition.

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
‘Gut punch’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blasts Biden on revoked Keystone XL permit

Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn’t consult with Canada first before acting

Most Read