Alaska’s senior senator announced a bill Friday that would give more low-income children access free meals during the summer.

According to a release from Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office, the Summer Meals Act of 2019 would make changes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, which, during the summers, works with public and nonprofit groups to provide meals to kids under 18 who receive free or reduced lunches during the school year.

“This bill would allow more children to have access to summer meals, provide transportation for children in rural and hard-to-reach areas to be able to access summer meals, and add flexibility to the program so that children can get more than one meal,” the release stated.

The Summer Meals Act of 2019 would do the following:

  • Help more children access healthy food by lowering the threshold to allow areas with 40% or more of students receiving free or reduced lunch to be eligible for the program, rather than the current threshold of 50%.
  • Reduce the paperwork burden for meal program sponsors who want to participate in the program.
  • Improve nutrition in rural, underserved and hard-to-reach areas by providing transportation grants for underserved areas to get children to summer meal sites and by promoting innovative ways to increase children’s access to summer meals, such as through mobile meal trucks.
  • Offer sites the option of serving two meals and a snack or three meals to children who attend evening enrichment programs during the school year and summer months.
  • Allow Summer Nutrition Program providers to serve food to children after emergencies or disasters and be reimbursed if the meals are taken offsite.

“For far too many children in Alaska and across the country, the meals served at school and in afterschool and summer programs are the only meals they can rely on, and when those meals are not available, those children go hungry,” Murkowski wrote in the release. “Federal policies that make it harder for schools and non-profit agencies to feed hungry children after school, during school vacation, and when schools are closed after a disaster, can and must be fixed.”

CEO of the Food Bank of Alaska Jim Baldwin, executive director of Kids Kupboard Lynette Ortolano and deputy director of Beans Café Kim Kovol also support the bill, saying access to regular nutritious meals during the summer help set kids up for success during the school year.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., announced the bill along with Murkowski.

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