Charlie O’Reilly: Feeding children should remain priority in congress
You may remember I wrote in last summer’s Harvest Time about the need for a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act to be passed by Congress.
Unfortunately, that legislation has yet to be passed more than a year later, and a new provision added by the House would hurt hungry kids.
The Senate Agriculture Committee brought to the floor its version of the bill earlier this year that affirmed continued support to government-funded feeding programs, including the Summer Food Service Program and the after-school Child and Adult Care Food Program, both part of Ozarks Food Harvest’s strategy to meet the food assistance needs for kids in our community.
We’re hopeful the Senate will vote on this reauthorization after the November elections.
The new provision from the House, the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016, would lessen the reach of school lunch and breakfast programs in high-poverty schools, potentially ending some food assistance in approximately 7,000 schools and blocking the addition of 11,000 schools currently eligible for increased support.
The bill would severely restrict schools’ ability to apply for community eligibility, an option that under current legislation allows high-poverty schools to provide meals at no charge to all students.
Removing community eligibility would add more paperwork to schools and more verification requirements to parents to prove their need. While we support regulation of feeding programs, Ozarks Food Harvest feels these heftier regulations would make it unnecessarily difficult for parents to get help in providing their kids a simple meal.
The details of the bill are complex, but the overall impact of the House bill would harm children in need. It is Ozarks Food Harvest’s belief that all children have a right to food. I’m sure many of you believe that as well, that’s why you support Ozarks Food Harvest with your donations of time, food and funds.
The legislation passed through the Senate earlier this year proves that Congress can work together, across the aisles, to find common ground when it comes to feeding kids. In my opinion, that shouldn’t be hard to do. Kids deserve to have a fair chance at being successful, and that starts with a full plate.
Now it is up to the House to take the advice of hundreds of hunger-relief organizations across the country who support increased funding of child feeding programs, but do not support removing community eligibility from schools just trying to make sure their kids have something to eat so they can learn.
I would urge you, as a supporter of Ozarks Food Harvest, to contact your representatives from Congress today through the Feeding America advocacy hotline, 888-398-8702, or contact them through their websites and ask them to make hunger relief a priority: Sen. Claire McCaskill, mccaskill.senate.gov; Sen. Roy Blunt, blunt.senate.gov; and Rep. Billy Long, long.house.gov.
You can be a voice for a child in need. From me and my friends at Ozarks Food Harvest, thank you for your support.
Charlie O’Reilly is the vice-chair of O’Reilly Automotive’s Board of Directors, a hunger-relief advocate and supporter of Ozarks Food Harvest.