Wednesday, May 17, 2023

By:  Brandon Kamerman


EUGENE, Ore. – Taking a cue from a local Oregon school district, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is set to introduce the Feed Our Rural Kids (FORK) Act this week.

The legislation would emulate a program established in Umatilla where the local school district created a vehicle summer meal delivery pilot program to help feed kids in rural communities who are not in school session.

“Our kids in rural Oregon are widely dispersed,” Merkley said. “We know often there are families that are not getting fed. Let’s figure out how to continue the summer feeding program in a more effective way.”

The FORK Act would create a pilot program to be used at various school districts around the country, using a food cart to deliver lunches to rural students at their homes.

Merkley said the pilot program would allow Congress to “see how it works for three years in different parts of America, evaluate it and see if we can make it a part of our permanent program.”

With pandemic funds expiring, the senator is trying to address the hunger gap.

“Say you’re a single parent. Your parent is working the day. How are you going to pick up a sack lunch? So, this was to solve the problem. We need to make sure no kid goes hungry in the school district.”

Merkley noted the success of the Umatilla program, launched by Superintendent Heidi Sipe.

“It worked really well,” he said, “and I think often the best federal programs are forged on things local districts have tried, and if they work, well – let’s try and make them a federal pilot. If that works, let’s make them a federal program.”

Merkley plans on introducing the FORK Act in the U.S. Senate on Thursday.