Bill Aims to Remove Barriers to Food for Ohio Children
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio's U.S. senators are reaching across the aisle to back a federal bill that would remove barriers to summer feeding programs for Ohio's children.
Currently, federal requirements mandate physical locations for the distribution of food in the summer months.
But Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, says the Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act (SB 1966) aims to modernize food distribution programs.
"Far too few schools have the funding to stay open during the summer months to continue to deliver meals to children who are out for the summer," she points out.
Seventeen of the 88 Ohio counties have no summer food program, largely because they lack an approved location to distribute the food.
The bill would allow for more alternatives for food delivery.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is a co-sponsor of the bill, and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Rob Portman, recently backed the legislation, which has bipartisan support.
The legislation would empower nonprofit, faith-based and community-based organizations with the ability to distribute meals through a version of an electronic benefits card, and a meals on wheels type program.
Hamler-Fugitt says something must be done to address a growing problem.
"Childhood hunger is absolutely an epidemic, not only in our state but across the nation,” she states. “Far too many of our families are working and are really struggling to provide those meals when kids are home during the summer months."
According to a survey released this summer by the Ohio Association of Food Banks, 85 percent of participants in a pilot program said it was more difficult to afford food during the summer because of a lack of access to school meals, increased utility bills or inability to prepare meals because of work.