Connecticut's two senators served meals to needy students as part of a push to make a food program available to children across the country all year round.
It's a mission New Haven Public Schools continues to fulfill and lawmakers hope to extend it elsewhere.
"Cutting the red tape, increasing the funding, raising awareness, providing transportation and access all have to come together," said Sen. Chris Murphy.
Sens. Murphy and Richard Blumenthal kicked off the first day of summer camp at the Boys & Girls Club of New Haven Tuesday morning.
The camp provides free activities and summer meals through the federal Summer Food Service Program to low-income children.
It's one of more than 80 sites in the city that provide breakfast and lunch to thousands of students.
The senators hoped to hear from children and parents about how important the program is.
"The fact that they provide it," said Crystal Herron, a parent. "It's easy on the pockets and it's a healthy meal, so it's always great."
Millions of dollars are earmarked for the summer food service program, which is federally funded.
However, the senators said due to inadequate eligibility requirements, confusing rules and insufficient access to transportation, only one in seven students who qualify for the summer program actually get into it and receive the food.
Blumenthal said 22 million kids receive meals during the school year. However, only 3 million get them during the summer.
Murphy called the statistic unacceptable.
"There's just no reason why so many kids who are getting free meals during the school year don't get them during the summer and a lot of that has to do with just how much of hassle it is to apply to this federal program," he said.
"We're talking about children who are genuinely hungry because they depend on these meals during the school year and they're not getting them during the summers," Blumenthal said.
Murphy and Blumenthal called on Congress to eliminate the blocks and speed bumps on the road to the program. They also asked the U.S. department of Agriculture's Summer Food Service Program to be funded at the highest levels possible.
The Boys & Girls Club in New Haven is a successful model for the program, according to the senators.
Everyday in the summer, it serves 4,500 breakfasts and 6,000 lunches.
To see the other sites in New Haven where the summer program is offered, click here.
For information about the program elsewhere in Connecticut, click here.
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