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REPS. JONES, GOTTHEIMER LEAD LETTER URGING SPEAKER PELOSI TO MAINTAIN CHILD NUTRITION PROVISIONS IN BUILD BACK BETTER ACT

October 26, 2021

Lawmakers highlight need to fight child hunger and call on Speaker Pelosi to preserve nearly $35 billion to support child nutrition priorities in the Build Back better Act

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Mondaire Jones (D-NY) and Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) led more than 40 Democratic House members in sending a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging her to preserve the critical investments in child nutrition passed by the House Education and Labor Committee in the final text of the Build Back Better Act. Specifically, the lawmakers urged Speaker Pelosi to work with President Biden to preserve $34.5 billion to support child nutrition priorities, including the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which would provide free school meals to all children who need them.

 

“As schools closed nationwide at the beginning of the pandemic, many sounded the alarm about the children who would now go without guaranteed meals every day. Thanks to those voices, we moved quickly to support families and children in need. Today, free meals are available to all children in a K-12 public school. This is stunning progress in the fight against child hunger,” wrote the lawmakers. “In fact, poverty levels have now fallen to historic lows. This is due in part, in addition to the very successful Child Tax Credit program, to child nutrition programs that make sure families do not slip back into hardship and food insecurity as we move towards a post-pandemic recovery. In the richest country in the world, no child should ever go hungry, and no working-class parent should struggle to put food on the table.”

 

In their letter, the lawmakers emphasize the need to invest in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). CEP is a popular, uncomplicated program that puts food right into the mouths of children without harmful stigma, complicated application forms, burdensome means testing, or bureaucratic bottlenecks. Studies show that students with greater food security have improved school attendance, higher retention and graduation rates, better academic performance, and better physical, mental, and emotional health.

 

“We share a common, uniting belief: no child should go unfed,” continued the lawmakers. “Getting meals straight to K-12 students is an efficient, commonsense way to help put an end to the vicious cycle of childhood hunger. We know that you have an extremely difficult series of decisions to make, but we urge you to prioritize retaining a full level of funding for CEP and other child nutrition priorities. We should be rewarding programs that produce the strong results this program has thus far shown, not cutting them. Please join us in making the commitment to protect CEP in the forthcoming package.”

 

In addition to Reps. Jones and Gottheimer, the letter is signed by Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Andy Levin (D-MI), Mark Takano (D-CA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Frank J. Mrvan (D-IN), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Alma S. Adams, Ph.D. (D-NC), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), André Carson (D-IN), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Ritchie Torres (D-NY), Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (D-NY), Adam Smith (D-WA), Al Lawson (D-FL), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Nikema Williams (D-GA), Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Karen Bass (D-CA), Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Tom O'Halleran (D-AZ), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Peter Welch (D-VT), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Andy Kim (D-NJ), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Paul D. Tonko (D-NY), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), and Marie Newman (D-IL).

 

The full text of the letter is below and can be found here.

 

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

 

We thank you for your extraordinary leadership in bringing the Democratic Caucus together to pass a reconciliation bill that invests in America’s children and families. As you know, we have important, urgent decisions to make in the coming days. One issue that unites us and must not be overlooked is the urgent need to fight child hunger and keep children across the country fed. We support your efforts to prioritize children and families in the Build Back Better Act and urge you to preserve critical investments in child nutrition as passed in the House Education and Labor Committee.

 

Our discussion around crucial benefit programs for future generations is incomplete without addressing child nutrition. We all saw the heartbreaking images of thousands of people lined up in their cars for emergency food services during the pandemic. Among those who found themselves without enough to eat were the nearly 30 million children who depended on school meals to stay fed every day.

 

As schools closed nationwide at the beginning of the pandemic, many sounded the alarm about the children who would now go without guaranteed meals every day. Thanks to those voices, we moved quickly to support families and children in need. Today, free meals are available to all children in a K-12 public school. This is stunning progress in the fight against child hunger.

 

In fact, poverty levels have now fallen to historic lows. This is due in part, in addition to the very successful Child Tax Credit program, to child nutrition programs that make sure families do not slip back into hardship and food insecurity as we move towards a post-pandemic recovery. In the richest country in the world, no child should ever go hungry, and no working-class parent should struggle to put food on the table.

 

That is why we believe the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), the tool that makes free school meals possible for all children who need food, must remain a priority in the Build Back Better Act. Specifically, we ask that you work with President Biden to preserve the full $34.5 billion for the CEP program and other child nutrition priorities, including expansion of Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (Summer EBT), that were passed out of the House Education and Labor Committee.

 

We know that CEP works, and it is needed now more than ever. Studies show that pre-pandemic, up to 22% of children were experiencing mental health challenges, and that nearly 80% of those children have unmet treatment needs. The pandemic has only acted to increase the mental health crisis among young people, making these figures underestimates. Children do not need the added stressor of wondering where their next meal is going to come from.

 

CEP is a popular, uncomplicated program, and ensuring it is fully funded so it may remain a successful and effective program is the right thing to do. This program gets food straight into the mouths of children without harmful stigma, complicated application forms, burdensome means testing, or bureaucratic bottlenecks. Additionally, students with greater food security have improved attendance, higher retention and graduation rates, better academic performance, and better physical, mental, and emotional health. This program ensures that we provide our youth with the tools they need to thrive.

 

We share a common, uniting belief: no child should go unfed. Getting meals straight to K-12 students is an efficient, commonsense way to help put an end to the vicious cycle of childhood hunger. We know that you have an extremely difficult series of decisions to make, but we urge you to prioritize retaining a full level of funding for CEP and other child nutrition priorities. We should be rewarding programs that produce the strong results this program has thus far shown, not cutting them. Please join us in making the commitment to protect CEP in the forthcoming package.

 

Sincerely,

About Mondaire: Mondaire Jones is the 34-year-old Congressman from New York’s 17th District, serving Westchester and Rockland Counties. He serves on the House Judiciary, Education and Labor, and Ethics Committees and is the first openly gay, Black member of Congress. A product of East Ramapo public schools, Mondaire was raised in Section 8 housing and on food stamps in the Village of Spring Valley by a single mother who worked multiple jobs to provide for their family. He later graduated from Stanford University, worked at the Department of Justice during the Obama Administration, and graduated from Harvard Law School. He is a co-founder of the nonprofit Rising Leaders, Inc. and has previously served on the NAACP’s National Board of Directors and on the board of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Most recently, Mondaire worked as a litigator in the Westchester County Law Department. In November, Mondaire was unanimously elected by his colleagues to be the Freshman Representative to Leadership, making him the youngest member of the Democratic House leadership team. In December, Jones was appointed a Deputy Whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and became a Co-Chair of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus. Mondaire was born and raised in Rockland, and resides in Westchester.

 

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