Advocacy Update: Summer Lunch in Maine and the New Farm Bill
Bill Promoting Summer Lunch Program to Become Law in Maine
Last week the Maine legislature overturned Governor LePage’s veto of a bill that will make significant progress in the fight against child hunger in Maine. LD 1353, An Act to Further Reduce Student Hunger, encourages schools to establish a summer meal program if more than 50 percent of their students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch during the school year.
Under the Summer Food Service Program, summer meals are reimbursed 100 percent by the federal government. More than 80,000 Maine children qualify for summer meals, but only 17.5 percent participated in the program in 2013. That means nearly 70,000 kids did not have access to these crucial meals.
Maine is currently leaving more than 10 million dollars on the table each year by not fully utilizing the Summer Food Service Program. Now that the Maine legislature has ensured that LD 1353 will become law, we look forward to seeing more communities come together to find ways to provide meals to children in need during the summer.
New Farm Bill Passes Congress, is Signed by President Obama
President Obama signed a new five year Farm Bill into law on Friday, February 7. The bill includes an $8.6 billion cut to SNAP (food stamps), which is estimated to cause 850,000 low-income households to lose an average $90 in monthly benefits.
The SNAP cut included in the Farm Bill comes from a change to the Heat & Eat program, a linkage between SNAP and the Low-Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The cut will affect 15 states (Maine being one) plus the District of Columbia.
This cut follows an approximately $11 billion cut to SNAP benefits impacting every SNAP household that took place on November 1 of last year.
Despite this erosion of the food stamp program, Congress did reject deeper cuts and harmful policy changes to SNAP that were included in the version of the bill originally put forth by the House of Representatives.
The final agreement also includes an additional $205 million investment in The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides nutritious food to food banks and other emergency food providers across the country.