Legislation would ensure that low-income families with children who rely on school meals are provided with food during snow days.
Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) introduced legislation requiring the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to develop a plan by October 1, 2014, to provide healthy meals to low-income children on snow days next winter. Cheh, who is the author of the Healthy Schools Act of 2010, introduced this legislation in an effort to ensure that the nearly 50,000 children in the District who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals do not go hungry on days schools are closed because of snow or other inclement weather.
“Securing a healthy and nutritious meal can be difficult for the 70 percent of our public and charter school students whose families live below the federal poverty level,” said Cheh. “And, although the Healthy Schools Act mandates that the District’s public and charter schools provide healthy breakfasts and lunches to our students, including those who receive free or reduced-priced meals, many of those students go without access to those meals if school is closed because of snow. This can be especially problematic when a snow day occurs adjacent to a weekend or holiday since that could mean that a student might go three days or more without a healthy meal.”
Currently, the US Department of Agriculture has a program that reimburses cities for meals provided to low-income students on snow days. Under Cheh’s legislation, DPR would follow the lead of other cities and seek those reimbursement funds. Cheh selected DPR to provide the closure day meals because the agency already provides over one million meals to low-income children during the summer months.
“Not only does DPR have the means to provide healthy meals to children but it also has recreation centers in low-income neighborhoods that can serve as the distribution points for these meals on snow days,” said Cheh. “This year, DC Public Schools have been closed for 6 snow days – days which DPR could have used federal funds to provide healthy meals to low-income children. Through this bill, the District can ensure that these children do not go hungry on snow days next winter.”