Senator Bob Casey highlights school lunch bill during visit to Bucks County

One in nine children were food insecure in Bucks County prior to March 2020 when the pandemic began.

More than two years later, one in four children do not know where their day-to-day meals come from.

Some of these children have access to federally supported food programs through camps, educational programs and other activities from children’s centers that deliver meals during the summer months when school is out.

Yet much more needs to be done to connect children in need to the resources available to them, said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, during a visit this week to YMCA summer camp in St. Francis Cabrini in Fairless Hills.

“We’re not doing enough,” Casey said.

In a single day, the YMCA camp feeds between 120 and 140 of the 290 registered children, said Zane Moore, president and CEO of the YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties.

“This is where the YMCA is more critical than ever,” Moore said.

Countywide, some 3,500 to 4,500 campers rely on the YMCA as a constant source of meals.

Casey visited the camp on Monday to serve lunch and speak about the need to do more to feed America’s children.

Casey said a new bipartisan law has extended the deadline for pandemic-era waivers for summer feeding sites from June 30 to September 30, allowing all children to have access to meals. , regardless of their income, and without having to apply.

Before the pandemic, a child’s family had to apply and eligibility was based on income and other factors.

Although the bill passed the Senate unanimously, Casey said some obstacles remained to extending waivers throughout the school year to extend free and reduced lunches to all students upon their return. in autumn. These waivers have not been extended and parents and guardians must now reapply for meals.

More free lunch:End of universal free school meals. How to Reapply for Discounted Lunches in Bucks County

School districts in Bucks County are now working to alert parents so students who are eligible for free and discounted meals don’t miss out in September.

A family of four earning less than $36,075 is eligible for free lunches and up to $51,338 for discounted meals.

Casey said expanding community eligibility and direct certification would help ensure students in need have access to free school meals. He supports a measure that would automatically enroll a family for free or reduced school meals, if the family is enrolled in Medicaid.

Community eligibility, Casey said, would allow for expansion of the free and reduced meals program by taking into account the number of children in the community who live below a certain poverty line. Once the threshold is reached, the majority of children can access meals.

“Every child in America should have enough to eat,” Casey said. “We are a weaker country if children do not have enough to eat every day.”

Learn more about food insecurity:Students at Bucks College, Pennsylvania are hungry. Here’s how the state aims to help

Moore, who led the YMCA for 12 years, called the organization “the ultimate equalizer.”

“You might have a kid here that’s from a wealthy family that’s just looking for a summer experience with a kid whose family needs that for child care, took advantage of financial assistance, and took advantage of the plan of meals,” Moore said. “That’s the beauty of the Y.”

Summer camp students have lunch presented by U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) at YMCA Summer Camp at Saint Frances Cabrini in Fairless Hills on Monday, July 11, 2022.

However, Moore said that without financial aid and funding from the state and donors, this would not be possible.

Having traveled to different sites last summer, Casey said the reaction of children is the same everywhere: they are learning, growing and having fun, with something to eat.

“If you invest in children, we are a safer country,” he said.

Summer camp students participate in activities as U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) visits YMCA Summer Camp at Saint Frances Cabrini in Fairless Hills on Monday, July 11, 2022.

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