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Universal Feeding Program Saved -- for Now

20111012-FNCS-LSC-0144 - Flickr - USDAgovThe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided that the popular and successful Universal Feeding program, which provides school meals to tens of thousands of low-income Philadelphia school children, will continue. Thanks to all of you who took action on this important issue!

The USDA has postponed making a decision on program until Congress considers a national update of child nutrition programs, in the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. This postponement came following “vocal and persistent” efforts from the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation and from constituents.

The Universal Feeding program allows more that 120,000 students in poor school to eat free meals without having to fill out application. The continuation of this program is vitally important because studies have shown that large numbers of children go hungry when they are required to provide school meal applications. According to state figures, nearly twice as many students get free meals when parents are not required to fill out the applications, due in large part to the fact that parents do not always complete the forms. Families with the lowest incomes and in the greatest need, where the school meals are likely the only meals the children eat, are unfortunately the least likely to return complete applications. The paperless system also reduced administrative costs for the School District of Philadelphia.

This program was scheduled for termination in June of 2010 but this extension will hopefully provide Congress with time to work on a permanent and national universal paperless school lunch program.

The Child Nutrition Act is scheduled to be reauthorized this year. Several legislators are considering the introduction of separate legislation that would extend similar programs to other cities in the US. Please keep reminding your representatives of the importance of this program, and thank them for their work in ensuring the program remains in Philadelphia!

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