Build Back Better Act Could Drastically Cut Child Hunger, Advocates Say
Friday, October 1, 2021
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Groups fighting child hunger say the Build Back Better plan in Congress could be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to cut down on the number of kids going hungry.
The budget-reconciliation package currently being debated in Washington, D.C. includes a provision to expand eligibility for school meals.
Chloe Eberhardt, policy advocate for community food justice at Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, said it provides a pathway to making school meals universal in Oregon.
"That really is something that we've been investing in," Eberhardt explained. "In Oregon, pre-pandemic, because we know the value and the importance of school meals for addressing hunger for kids, and so this really is validation to that."
The Build Back Better plan also increases access to meals during the summer months, when hunger spikes for kids. The legislation is receiving pushback, including from some moderate Democrats, because of its cost, which currently exceeds $3.5 trillion.
Susannah Morgan, CEO of the Oregon Food Bank, said the budget package includes key provisions to cut down on disparities across the board, such as universal pre-school.
She said one of the most important anti-poverty pieces is making permanent the Child Tax Credit, which has gone out to families during the pandemic. The credit provides up to $3,600 a year to families, depending on the age of their child, phasing out for households with higher incomes.
"Research has shown that in the months that it has existed, it's cutting child poverty in half," Morgan reported. "It's lifting families with small children out of poverty, which is absolutely astonishing and delighting."
While there is an urge to return to life pre-pandemic, Eberhardt said hunger was a major issue before COVID-19. One in ten Oregonians struggled to put food on the table, according to the Oregon Hunger Task Force. She noted rates were twice as high for people of color, including Black and Indigenous families.
"The Build Back Better Act really, for us, is getting right at that because we don't want to go back to what was the normal before the pandemic because that wasn't working," Eberhardt asserted.
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