“What’s There Even to Discuss?”

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar Friday’s argument was that the temporary free school meal waivers she had enacted during the pandemic in order to stop a rise in child hunger should be made permanent. She described this as a moral, political, and economic no-brainer.

“We have an opportunity to prove that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people can still deliver big things,” said Omar (D.Minn.), is the whip for Congressional Progressive Caucus. “And we can feed tens of millions of hungry kids while we do it. What’s there to even discuss?”

Late last month, both the Senate and House met. passed A compromise legislation that extends school meal waivers only through the summer, instead of the coming school year. This is the GOP’s position. opposed. Original approval was in mid-2020. waivers Schools have been able to remove income-based eligibility requirements from schools in order to provide free meals to as many students possible.

In op-ed For MinnPost on Friday, Omar — who helped negotiate the inclusion of the waivers in a sweeping coronavirus relief package — noted that “the results were a resounding success in Minnesota and across the country.”

“The MEALS Act gives schools the flexibility to make changes to their meal program to ensure their ability to provide meals to students by allowing the increase of federal costs for the purpose of providing meals,” Omar wrote. “Approximately 22 million kids relied on school meals before the pandemic, and it’s estimated that the MEALS Act and resulting waivers helped an additional 10 million get fed. It also kept people employed preparing and delivering food for kids who need it.”

“This bill was a shining example of the government working at one of its core functions — making sure the American people don’t go hungry,” the congresswoman added. “And it was a reminder that our country can do amazing things when our government works as intended.”

But with the waiver extension set to expire in a matter of weeks, Omar is calling for a “lasting solution” that would “provide school meals free of charge to any student who wants it — as many districts have done during the pandemic.”

“This would reduce burdensome paperwork requirements and make sure that no child in the wealthiest country in the world goes hungry at school. It’s also overwhelmingly supported by Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. That’s why I have introduced a bill — along with the support of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Tina Smith and leaders like Valerie Castile — to do just that.”

Also known as the Universal School Meals Program Act of 2021, the legislation would make free breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack available to all school children in the U.S., no matter their family’s income. The bill would also eliminate all school meal debt. impacts Children across the country.

“Supply chain issues and the rising cost of food are making the hunger crisis worse,” Omar wrote Friday. “Food prices are expected to increase up to 7.5% this year, stretching already tight family budgets. Before the pandemic, 13 million children were already facing hunger in this country. Three out of every four teachers say they see students regularly come to school hungry, and a majority of them regularly buy food for students out of their own pockets.”

“And we know that getting nutritious meals doesn’t just prevent hunger,” the Minnesota Democrat added. “It has benefits for a child’s physical and mental development. Studies have shown that students who arrive hungry to class are less able to concentrate and perform worse in school. This can have lifelong consequences.”