State Reps. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Sarah LaTourette (R-Chesterland) today applauded the passage of House Bill (HB) 80, their bipartisan legislation to combat child hunger in Ohio. HB 80 would allow outside organizations to use schools as summer meal sites to ensure hungry children have access to a nutritious lunch even when school is out of session.
“It is unacceptable that over a half million Ohio children go hungry when they are not in school,” said Smith. “By allowing schools to partner with qualified organizations in the summer to provide healthy meals to students in need at no cost to the school district, we can help reduce child hunger in our state.”
In 2016, the Food Research and Action Center reported that nearly 650,000 school-aged children in Ohio were eligible for free or discounted meals in 2014-2015, yet only 10 percent of eligible children had access to these meals during the summer months when school is typically not in session. According to the report, Ohio is one of six states to most miss out on federal funding available to help feed school children in need.
“Summer nutrition programs serve as a bridge to fill the summer meal gap for students, and increased participation by summer meal sponsors at school sites will help to reduce food insecurity,” said LaTourette. “I am so pleased to see this bill move forward with this favorable vote on the House floor today.”
Current law requires each school district board in Ohio to extend either its school breakfast program or lunch program throughout the summer, or offer a summer food service program. However, district boards may opt out of the summer food requirement if they lack financial means.
Under HB 80, if a local school district in which at least half of all students are eligible for free or reduced lunches opts out of the summer food program, the district board can submit an approved summer food service program sponsor permit to the State Board of Education, allowing the sponsor to utilize available school facilities to provide meals for students.
HB 80 was voted out of the House 89-4 and now moves to the Senate for further consideration.