WASHINGTON -- Low-income children could get free lunches on weekends and holidays instead of only on school days under a bill introduced this week by Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.).
"This legislation will fill a gap in federal programming and provide funding for nutritious meals to ensure that vacation from school does not mean hunger for children," Titus said in a statement on Thursday.
The bill would expand the National School Lunch Program. Established in 1945, the program offers free meals to kids whose families earn less than 130 percent of the poverty line, or $29,965 per year for a family of four. Kids from slightly wealthier families can get reduced-price meals, and the program offers full-priced lunch to children whose parents earn more than 185 percent of the poverty line.
Fifty-seven percent of children in the Clark County School District, which Titus represents, receive free or reduced-price meals, her office said. Her "Weekends Without Hunger" legislation would establish a five-year pilot program to allow some eligible kids to receive the same meals on weekends and holidays during the school year.
School lunches cost the government $11 billion in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program. Each school day that year, more than 31 million kids received meals from the program.
Republicans, for their part, have generally opposed any increases in nutrition spending, though several GOP congressmen fought back against the USDA's school lunch nutrition guidelines.