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More than 2.6 million children in the U.S. are being raised by grandparents and other relatives

Washington, D.C. – As the Nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and schools across the country re-open, the meals provided through school programs play a significant role in supporting children and families through unstable and challenging times. U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is introducing the Caregivers Access and Responsible Expansion for Kids Act of 2021, or the CARE for Kids Act, which would expand free school meal eligibility for the many children displaced due to crises like the opioid epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic, who live with grandparents or other caregivers.

“For children in unstable living situations, many of whom are displaced due to the opioid epidemic, the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis has only further exacerbated the devastating reality of food insecurity. With so much uncertainty in all other aspects of their lives, these children should not have to worry about when or where they will receive their next meal,” said Senator Casey. “The CARE for Kids Act closes a loophole in order to ensure that these children can access nutritious foods through school meal programs. At the same time, it also eases the financial burden for their caregivers, often grandparents or other relatives, who have taken on the responsibility of caring for them.” 

“Before the pandemic, grandparents and other relatives have been stepping up to care for the children who are being impacted by the opioid and drug epidemic,” said Luis Guardia, president, Food Research & Action Center. “The pandemic has only made the situation more dire for many grandfamilies. FRAC is proud to endorse the CARE for Kids Act, which will ensure access to free school meals and provide an important financial and nutritional support for these struggling families.” 

“2.7 million children are being raised by grandparents or other relatives who have often stepped up unexpectedly stretching their resources and with little time to prepare. The pandemic shined a light on the daily challenges these families face accessing services and supports for the children in their care. Generations United applauds Senator Bob Casey his leadership on The CARE for Kids Act which will improve access to school meals and alleviate one worry grandfamilies face,” said Donna Butts, Executive Director, Generations United.

“Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren in Pennsylvania are doing heroic work, providing the unconditional love, care and stability that every child needs and deserves. While personally rewarding, this work can oftentimes present a variety of challenges, including financial stress,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Robert Torres. “These kinship caregivers make sacrifices every day. They should be supported to strengthen the caregiving relationship and help them successfully navigate the crucial role they’ve taken on. We thank Senator Casey for his continued leadership in supporting grandparents raising grandchildren by reintroducing this important legislation, which would help ease the financial burden for these families.”

School meals programs provide automatic eligibility and certification for free meals for children in foster care but the same automatic authorization does not apply to similar groups of vulnerable children being raised by grandparents or other relatives. To support more children facing food insecurity, the CARE for Kids Act would ensure that local education agencies can also provide automatic eligibility for children in these living arrangements.

This bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Angus King (I-ME), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).

The CARE for Kids Act is endorsed by the Council of Administrators of Special Education, the National Education Association, the American Association of School Administrators, Feeding Philadelphia, Philabundance and Feeding America.

Read the one pager on the CARE for Kids Act here.