As summer approaches, consistent access to nutritious foods for many young Mountaineers remains in jeopardy. United States Senate leaders should act quickly to extend USDA’s child nutrition waiver authority.
We know flexibility in these summer feeding programs is key to success for programs and kids being served by them. Many program coordinators are struggling to plan not knowing what rules will be in place this summer and others are questioning if they will operate a feeding program this summer at all.
Our organization, Mountaineer Food Bank that serves 48 out of West Virginia’s 55 counties, is extremely concerned that USDA’s authority to issue child nutrition waivers has not been extended. Without these waivers, millions of summer feeding programs’ future are in flux, this summer and beyond.
In West Virginia, one-in-five kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Summer feeding programs, like Mountaineer Meals, is a life-line for many students throughout our state. By partnering with schools, libraries, and other community organizations in Braxton, Mercer, Calhoun, and Clay counties, Mountaineer Meals served 123,630 meals to 952 of kids in 2021. In 2020, 1,405 kids were connected with 161,189 meals. This summer, we are excited to add summer feeding sites in Fayette, Gilmer, Nicholas, McDowell, and Hardy counties to help meet the sustained increased need for food assistance.
We know from previous actions, West Virginia’s senators, Senator Manchin and Senator Capito, care deeply about ending hunger among young Mountaineers. West Virginia families are hurting. Gas and food prices are historically high. Supply chain issues have wrecked family budgets and planning. Like families, summer feeding program aren’t immune to economic factors and will face higher operating and food purchasing costs this summer.
Senator Manchin and Senator Capito can step up for young West Virginians and encourage Congress to act to extend USDA’s child nutrition waiver authority. These waivers not only impact a program’s ability to feed kids throughout West Virginia communities but our ability to partner with and hire local workers to support these summer feeding programs.
Congress should recognize the important role these waivers play in feeding kids this summer and beyond by extending USDA’s child nutrition waiver authority when they return to D.C.
Reach out to Senators Manchin and Capito and urge them to extend USDA child nutrition waiver authority.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito's Washington, D.C. office at 202-224-6472
Senator Joe Manchin's Washington, D.C. office at 202-224-3954
Caitlin Cook serves as Director of Advocacy and Public Policy for Mountaineer Food Bank