WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday will propose that Congress spend $45 billion to provide free meals to millions more low-income children, a move that would expand anti-poverty measures adopted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden wants lawmakers to fund the permanent expansion of a bridge program that gives low-income families cash to pay for food in the months when school is out for the summer and lunches aren’t served. He is also asking to provide more money for free meals in high-poverty areas throughout the school year.
The nutrition program is one component of Biden’s $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which would raise taxes on wealthy individuals to pay for initiatives shoring up lower-income families.
“The pandemic illustrated the need to address food insecurity,” said Kelliann Blazek, a White House aide whose portfolio includes agriculture and rural policy. “Some of these investments are really pulling on lessons learned during the pandemic.”
In 2019, 5.3 million children lived in households unable to guarantee food for the whole family throughout the year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The administration is also asking Congress to reward schools that expand healthful food offerings with incentive payments and also to allow individuals convicted of drug-related crimes to continue receiving food stamp benefits.
For the funding to be approved, the proposal will need the approval of a closely divided Congress.
© 2021 Thomson Reuters.