Building on P-EBT benefits created in response to the coronavirus, President Biden proposed a vast expansion of the USDA's summer food program on Wednesday that would be available to the 22 million children who eat school meals for free or at a reduced price. The White House also called for expanding a program that provides free school meals to all children in high-poverty neighborhoods.
The Trump administration's much-criticized food box will be replaced for the moment by a $400 million dairy donation initiative and fresh produce distributed through a longstanding USDA program, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday.
Hunger in the United States has dropped to its lowest level of the yearlong pandemic, according to Census Bureau data released on Wednesday. Analysts credited government stimulus checks, increased federal food assistance, and the economic recovery for the sharp improvement.
The government should permanently adopt the innovations of the pandemic that made school meals available when classrooms were idle and allowed WIC interviews by phone and video rather than requiring applicants to appear in person, said Senate Agriculture chairwoman Debbie Stabenow on Thursday.
The USDA ought to keep President Trump's glitzy food box giveaway program in operation rather than let it die at the end of April, said Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee on Thursday. A food bank leader said that while the food box had been helpful in responding to pandemic-caused hunger, it was not as useful as programs like SNAP.
Although in the latest Pulse survey from the Census Bureau, fewer people said they didn't have enough food to eat in the past week, hardship rates remain very high, said the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on Wednesday.
U.S. anti-hunger programs should address the twin challenges of nutrition — supplying enough food and encouraging diets built around healthy food — at the same time after decades of focusing on a lack of food for poor Americans, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday.
Food stamp enrollment has surged by 6 million people since the pandemic hit the United States, said the USDA on Wednesday in its first update of SNAP participation in months. Some 42.9 million people received food stamps at latest count, the highest number since October 2017.
Congress allotted the same amount of funding for public nutrition programs that it did for agriculture in the new coronavirus relief bill, even though hunger is on the rise, wrote three economists on Tuesday. "An obvious way to address the problem would be to shift all or most of the $13 billion earmarked for farmers to federal nutrition programs that serve hungry families in real need," the economists said in an essay in The Hill.