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Keep Kids Fed Act helping schools provide free meals to students during summer

The bill only extends the school meal waivers through September.

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — This summer, the federal government is trying to make it easier for schools to feed students who are facing food insecurity, including looking ahead to the new school year in the fall.

According to Feedmore WNY, there's about 50,000 kids across the four counties they serve who need assistance. 

Between rising food costs and the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, food insecurity is still prevalent in Western New York.

"In the Niagara Falls School District, we served half a million meals remotely to kids," said Mark Laurrie, superintendent at Niagara Falls Schools. 

Food insecurity is impacting 1 in 5 kids in Niagara County. 

A few weeks ago, Congress extended waivers through the end of the summer so schools can continue providing free breakfast and lunch to students. That's regardless of their parents' income. 

The waiver extension is part of the Keep Kids Fed Act, a bipartisan bill, which Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says will also provide resources to schools so they can keep providing meals to students throughout the 2022-2023 school year. 

"It's not permanent, but it gets us through the next school year and allows the resources to flow where they're needed," she said. 

The legislation will allow schools to keep serving free meals, deliver meals, ease paperwork requirements, and provides schools funding to deal with inflation on food and operation costs. 

"We just have to recognize things aren't back to normal and so we need to increase the amount of food. The permanent changes are the ones that are in my two bills to change the women and infants program, the WIC program, and then another one that creates more summer meals permanently. So those would be long-lasting programs whereas what we just did is emergency relief," Gillibrand said. 

Some of those children needing assistance are also on the East Side of Buffalo, where a mass shooting in May closed down the only grocery store there. 

It's why Feedmore WNY continues to need canned proteins, fruits, vegetables and financial support.

"We have invested millions of dollars on the East Side, almost $4-million in the first month alone so really financial support is critical," said Tara Ellis, president and CEO of Feedmore WNY. 

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