Tag Archives: summer feeding

Hunger in Ohio: an update

Ohio’s rate of hunger is 16 percent according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s latest study. These are families and individuals that struggle to buy food. Their nutrition levels are reduced because they cannot purchase the best foods.

Read the article at Examiner.

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YMCA and Walmart team up to fight child hunger

Last month I reported about the unique program the Cincinnati Public Library has by offering summer feeding for children at its locations. The YMCA is also coming through in the fight against child hunger. Food will be provided at more than 1,000 YMCA sites across the country this summer.

Read the full article at Examiner.com

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Senator Brown highlights summer feeding gap

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio said this week, “Summer break shouldn’t mean a break from good nutrition.” In a press release, the Senator highlighted the need for more awareness about summer feeding programs and their availability.

Read the full article at Examiner.com

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How libraries will fight hunger in America this summer

When summer comes needy children often lose access to the free or reduced price meals available during the school year. In Ohio, which has a child hunger rate of 25 percent, this is a huge problem.

Read the full article at Examiner.com

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Summer Meals Should be for all Children

The Dept. of Agriculture is trying to expand summer feeding throughout the country (courtesy USDA)

The Dept. of Agriculture is trying to expand summer feeding throughout the country (courtesy USDA)

Summer is here and time for relaxation. But for millions of needy children across the United States, it is the summer months when they are most vulnerable to hunger.

During the school year children have access to the federal school lunch and breakfast programs. This is a major safety net for families who need a little to help to get by during tough times. When school is out these meals sadly disappear for many.

The Food Research and Action Center states, “for every seven low-income students who depended on the National School Lunch Program during the regular 2011-2012 school year, only one child received summer meals in July 2012.”

Some U.S. counties do not even have a summer feeding site. So there is a huge gap in the U.S. child feeding program that will need innovation from both the public and the government to fix. In Cincinnati, Ohio, for example, public libraries are helping out as locations for distributing summer meals. More summer feeding sites, or other delivery methods, need to be established and there has to be adequate funding.

Summer meals for children are also missing in Haiti, where food is desperately needed. A series of storms and drought have damaged food production in an already impoverished country. The UN World Food Programme, which depends on voluntary funding, did not receive enough to provide summer feeding in Haiti nor a program for take home rations to help needy families.

The U.S. McGovern-Dole global school meals program is helping in Haiti as well as other countries including Mali and Afghanistan, but it needs to be expanded. Unfortunately, funding for McGovern-Dole is at risk as members of Congress are threatening cuts to food aid. This despite the fact that food aid makes up less than one tenth of one percent of the federal budget.

The program was named after the two former senators, George McGovern and Bob Dole, who during World War II witnessed the devastating effect of hunger on children and understood the importance of these initiatives in the global scene.

We should expect our representatives in Congress to make feeding the hungry overseas a top foreign policy priority.

Summer meals, both here at home and abroad, should be for all children. It’s a real test of our character as a society, do we care for the next generation and give them a helping hand.

In the United States you can call 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (for Spanish speakers) to find the closest summer feeding sites or visit www.whyhunger.org/findfood.

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Where are the School Meals?

Emergency school feeding in Mali through the World Food Programme. Cuts by Congress to food aid could harm this program. (WFP/Daouda Guirou)

Emergency school feeding in Mali through the World Food Programme. Cuts by Congress to food aid could harm this program. (WFP/Daouda Guirou)

We know that globally there is a huge need for school lunch programs to fight child hunger. Yet, it’s the middle of June and there’s still no word on which countries will receive grants from the U.S. McGovern-Dole school lunch program. Last year the announcement took place in April and the previous year in May.

The McGovern-Dole program is run by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA). However, the program is constantly under stress from potential funding cuts by Congress.

Bread for the World reported earlier this year that “234,000 children will have reduced or denied access to school feeding programs under the McGovern-Dole program” as a result of the sequestration cuts. It is believed that the sequestration is causing the delay in the announcement of the school feeding grants. The longer the delay, the longer hungry and malnourished children have to wait for the meals.

Aid groups, including Catholic Relief Services and the World Food Program USA, want funding for McGovern-Dole increased. They see the positive effects this program has in countries that are suffering from disasters, war, or long-standing poverty. This year’s Farm Bill legislation is the perfect opportunity to increase the level of funding and allow for more school meals in Afghanistan, Mali, Haiti and other countries where needs are massive.

WFP USA says it “has included an ask for McGovern-Dole of $300 million for FY14 in our overall global hunger and nutrition recommendations. Providing $300 million a year for McGovern-Dole would allow this program to reach 10% of the hungry school-aged children in need, increasing their nutritional status and increasing school attendance, especially for girls.” Recent funding levels for McGovern-Dole are around the $200 million mark.

Here in the United States the National School Lunch program is meant to fight off child hunger.

But what happens when summer arrives and schools close? The lunches are disappearing for many children. The Food and Research Action Center (FRAC) just released a report showing a huge gap in feeding coverage during the summer months.

The report says, “for every seven low-income students who depended on the National School Lunch Program during the regular 2011-2012 school year, only one child received summer meals in July 2012.”

Tom Vilsack, head of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), emphasizes, “We must do all we can to ensure that children get nutritious food year-round, so that they are ready to learn during the school year and have a greater chance to succeed.” Efforts by USDA and the public have slightly improved summer feeding participation but the gap in coverage is still huge.

Jim Weill, the president of FRAC, says, “USDA is providing strong leadership with its emphasis on improving summer meals, but Congress will need to fix some of the underlying problems in the programs in the 2015 Child Nutrition Reauthorization to truly repair the Summer Nutrition Programs. Congress must take a fresh look at the Summer Nutrition Programs and consider ways to improve this faltering program so it more effectively addresses hunger and obesity.”

The struggle to defeat hunger at home and abroad depends on school meals. Leaders, both from the government and the public, need to ensure these vital food programs are strengthened.

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Backpacks Fight Hunger in America

Food supplies for a Power Pack (Freestore Foodbank photo)

The Cincinnati Public Library says a plan to give children backpacks of food for weekends is off to an excellent start. Library branches, in partnership with the Cincinnati Freestore Foodbank, are hosting summer feeding sites to make sure no child goes hungry.

Over 25 percent of children in Ohio are considered hungry or “food insecure,” according to a study by Feeding America. Last month the Library decided to provide backpacks of food which children could take home on Fridays. This food is in addition to regular weekday meals at library branches throughout Cincinnati.

Diane Smiley, the youth services coordinator for the Library, says “Based on the numbers and anecdotal feedback from some of the sites, Friday attendance has spiked and all the backpacks are being distributed. We’re glad this additional resource is available to kids who are clearly in need.”

Karrie Denniston of Feeding America, the nation’s largest organization fighting hunger, says that adding backpack programs to summer feeding is generally a success: “It is becoming frequent actually. A lot of our summer programs run both.”

Backpacks ensure that needy children can have meals all week, and cut down the gaps in coverage that are so common when summer arrives. During the school year children have access to free and reduced-price meals through the federal school lunch and breakfast program. They also have access to backpack programs through their school. During the school year the Freestore Foodbank of Cincinnati runs a backpack program called the “Power Pack.” When summer comes and school is out, a replacement is needed.

The Freestore is planning expansion of its school year “Power Pack” program as well. The Cincinnati Public Library is also seeking to expand its role in alleviating child hunger and promoting education. Smiley says that “we’re looking at developing a community partnership that would provide free and healthy afterschool snacks to kids at our Homework Help sites.”

Article first published as Backpacks Fight Hunger in America on Blogcritics.

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