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Katko pushes bill to expand kids summer food program, confident SNAP cuts will be restored

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
The Boys & Girls Club of Syracuse.

During the summer months, the Boys & Girls Club in Syracuse serves hundreds of free meals to kids who lose access to free and reduced meals at school. Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) is pushing legislation to expand summer food service programs.

Seven-year-old Memah plays with her friends at the Boys & Girls Club in Syracuse.

“You learn a lot, there’s a lot of food and you can play a lot,” Memah said.

She eats twice a day at the Boy & Girls Club. She likes pancakes for breakfast and hamburgers for lunch. Katko helped serve lunch to the kids.

“Poverty is very serious in Syracuse," Katko said. "These summer feeding programs are critically important. They may be the only meals a lot of these kids get.”

Katko is cosponsoring legislation that lowers the threshold that allows the summer food service program to operate. Currently, the program serves areas where 50 percent of children are eligible for free or reduced school meals. The bill would lower that to 40 percent. It would also add a third meal and funding for food trucks to reach rural and under-served areas.

A similar but different funding source to help low-income people get food is in the farm bill, which passed the House but with cuts to SNAP or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Katko voted against it, but he said he is confident the Senate will take out the cuts.

"And I'm not voting for a bill if there's cuts to SNAP," Katko said. "That's period. Just not going to do it."

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.