‘Sometimes I have to go hungry to feed those I love.’
‘Proper nutrition is vital to a child’s developing brain. We are hurting our future by starving our present.’
‘I have been coordinating a summer lunch program ... and this summer our numbers have nearly doubled.’
PORTLAND, Ore. – More than 12,000 people throughout the Western United States – including Oregon – are sending a strong message to Congress this week to help end childhood hunger.
“Childhood hunger is a serious problem not only in Oregon but throughout the nation,” said Rachel Bristol, CEO, Oregon Food Bank.
Nationally, nearly one in four households with children suffered food hardship in 2009, according to a recent report by the Food Research and Action Center. Respondents in households with children reported food hardship at a rate 1.6 times that of other households – 24.1 percent for households with children versus 14.9 percent for households without children.
For households without children in Oregon, the food hardship rate is 15 percent. For households with children, it’s a startling 26.7 percent.
“Hunger has a dramatic impact on our country’s present and future,” Bristol said. “Children who are hungry get sick more often, have more trouble learning in school and may have irreversible health problems later in life. Child hunger is a health problem, an educational problem and a job-readiness problem. And it impacts both short- and long-term health care costs.”
The 12,000 postcards urge Congress to increase investments in federal child nutrition programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), school lunch and breakfast, summer food, child care snacks and meals. Congress has begun reviewing these programs through the reauthorization process, which occurs every five years.
Recognizing the serious impact of child hunger on the nation, President Obama set a goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015 and included $10 billion over 10 years in additional investments for child nutrition programs in his proposed budget.
The Senate Agriculture Committee, which has jurisdiction over child nutrition programs in the Senate, passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, March 24. While the bill includes several improvements, it includes only $4.5 billion in additional investments over 10 years for child nutrition programs. The bill now goes to the full Senate.
The House Education and Labor Committee, which has jurisdiction over the programs in the House, will draft its own legislation in the upcoming weeks.
“Child nutrition programs are among our nation’s most important and cost-effective programs,” Bristol said. “But we need to strengthen them to reach more children, more efficiently, with more nutritious foods.”
Oregon Food Bank has joined with other members of the Western Regional Anti-Hunger Consortium from Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to urge Congress to:
- Change the area eligibility threshold to give more low-income children access to nutritious food after school and during school breaks,
- Increase reimbursement rates for child nutrition programs to cover the true cost of providing nutritious meals,
- Improve the nutritional qualify of meals and support local agriculture by enhancing state farm-to-school programs and
- Streamline child nutrition programs to increase the number of organizations that sponsor meal sites.
- WIC serves 114,641 low-income pregnant women, new mothers and children up to age five. WIC provides growth and health assessments, nutrition education, referrals, breastfeeding support and nutritious foods;
- the National School Lunch Program provides 309,409 school lunches as well as snacks for in afterschool care programs;
- the School Breakfast Program provides funds for 138,420 school breakfasts;
- the Summer Food Service Programs provide funds for 36,567 snacks and meals for low-income children during their summer break from school; and
- the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program provides reimbursement for 38,760 meals served in child care settings, homeless shelters and after school programs.
About Oregon Food Bank
Oregon Food Bank is a nonprofit, charitable organization. It is the hub of a statewide network of more than 935 local partner agencies serving Oregon and Clark County, Wash. OFB recovers food from farms, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, individuals and government sources. It then distributes that food to 20 regional food banks across Oregon. Sixteen are independent charitable organizations. OFB directly operates the four regional food banks serving the Portland metropolitan area, southeast Oregon and Tillamook County. Those four centers distribute food weekly to 380 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other programs helping low-income individuals in Multnomah, Clackamas, Clark, Washington, Harney, Malheur and Tillamook counties. OFB also works to eliminate the root causes of hunger through advocacy and public education.