Child hunger is a serious public health problem preventing many young Americans from reaching their full potential. In Central Texas, one in four children is at risk of hunger, which increases their chance for developmental delays, health issues and lower academic performance. When food becomes difficult to afford family, friends and charity may not be within reach to lend a helping hand. However, even with the growing number of food charities across the country, research shows community resources cannot fill the gap, providing only 1/20th of what the federal government does. This is why federal nutrition programs are so critical to children facing hunger.
With our federal nutrition programs — specifically, our child nutrition programs — we can help close the child hunger gap. As Congress renews these programs during the Child Nutrition Reauthorization in September, you have an opportunity to advocate for some really good ideas:
Good Idea No. 1: Give kids more summer meal options.
When summer break arrives, these children can no longer access free and reduced-priced breakfast and lunch at school. Families not only face the increased costs of summer child care, but also face higher food budgets. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) was designed to address this issue. However, some communities cannot support SFSP sites. Kids in certain areas cannot access sites at all. This leaves an estimated 6.5 million children underserved throughout the country. The Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act, S.1966, provides loaded EBT cards to families to purchase additional food throughout the summer, effectively replacing the meals their kids would normally get at school. This bipartisan legislation also allows summer meal providers alternative delivery methods, such as mobile feeding and backpack programs to feed those kids in hard-to-reach areas.
Good Idea #2: Out with the paperwork, in with the service delivery
One way to save money and reduce waste on nutrition programs is to invest in more efficient program administration. By streamlining the application process, providers that participate in multiple nutrition programs like us can provide better and more services to the families who need our help. The Summer Meals Act of 2015, S.613/H.R. 1728 does that and much more — increasing the number of sites available to communities and allowing those sites to serve a third meal.
Good idea No. 3: When you’re at a care center for more than eight hours a day, a third meal or snack can keep the hangrys away.
More parents are working long hours and driving further just to make ends meet. That means children may be in child care for more than eight hours a day. Many of these child care centers rely on the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to provide meals to their low-income children. However, they only get reimbursed for two meals per child, no matter how many hours the children stay.
The Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act, S.1833, allows these centers to serve a third meal or snack, increases meal reimbursement rates and streamlines paperwork. Our Kids Cafe program, which provides after-school meals for children, will greatly benefit from this legislation.
Show your support for these good ideas by sending an email to your members of Congress today. We make it easy for you with our advocacy portal. Simply enter your contact information, personalize your letter, and your message of support will be sent to your elected official.