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childhood hunger

Community Eligibility: Flexibility is Key

There’s been a lot of talk over the last several years about the nutrition of school meals – where the ingredients come from, how they’re prepared, what the food tastes like, and how the meal is presented.  These are all important conversations for elevating the quality of school food service and improving the health and wellbeing of children nationwide.  But it’s also important to remember one of the most vital purposes of offering school meals: fighting hunger so kids can focus on learning. 

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a tool high-poverty schools can use to fight childhood hunger.  It allows schools in low-income areas to serve meals to all students at no cost, eliminating individual household applications for free and reduced-price meals and increasing access to nutritious food.

Community Eligibility: Navigating Speed Bumps on the Way to Success

When the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act authorized the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), schools in high-poverty areas gained another important tool to fight childhood hunger.  By the end of school year 2014-15, the first year CEP was available nationwide, more than half of all eligible schools had already jumped on board. 

Low-income schools of all kinds – rural, urban, elementary and secondary – recognized the potential impact they could have on their communities by offering meals at no cost to all students.  Yet, some schools encountered more bumps on the road to implementation than others.

Hunger In Our Schools: Breakfast Is A Crucial "School Supply" For Kids In Need

Good nutrition is just as important to a child’s future as a quality education—maybe even more so. We can’t expect kids to learn, excel and achieve if they aren’t properly nourished from day one. Share Our Strength’s new report, Hunger in Our Schools, illustrates how the healthier school breakfasts and lunches are working to address the twin crises of childhood hunger and obesity, particularly for low-income children. Healthy meals set up our kids for success, and school meals are a critical and effective part of that.

--Secretary Tom Vilsack

As a nation, we spend a lot of time, effort and money on ways to better educate our children. In recent years, there have been fierce debates on No Child Left Behind, Common Core, teacher qualifications, textbook standards and more. These battles ignore one key factor, however: If our children are too hungry to learn, their success is doomed before we’ve even begun.

Working with the research firm SalterMitchell, No Kid Hungry recently completed a new national survey of 1,000+ educators across the nation as well as a series of focus group interviews with dozens of teachers and principals. The new report, “Hunger In Our Schools,” underscores the fact that hunger hampers a child’s ability to learn, but school breakfast offers a chance to solve this problem for millions of children.

Summer Food for Children Demonstration Projects: Finding New Ways to End Childhood Hunger

When school lets out, millions of children look forward to camps, pools, and blockbuster movies.  However, many children will also experience hunger.  When school is in session, low-income students receive free or reduced-price school meals that help families stretch their food budget.  When the school year ends, those school meals are no longer available to those students and some families will struggle to fill this gap.

We here at the USDA have been working hard to reduce childhood hunger when school is out.  One way we are accomplishing this goal is through the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) for Children demonstration project.  The project, funded by Congress in 2010, has shown clear results in reducing very low food security among children, the most severe form of childhood hunger.  A rigorous evaluation indicated that Summer EBT for Children:

Child Hunger and the Importance of Keeping Our Communities Healthy and Strong

During March, National Nutrition Month®, USDA will highlight various nutrition topics that are near and dear to our hearts. We don’t work on these issues alone however. This guest blog post acknowledges one USDA National Strategic Partner, Feeding America, for the outstanding work they do to address childhood hunger and food insecurity and promote MyPlate. Learn more below:

By Jessica Hager, MA in Social Service Administration, Nutrition Coordinator, Feeding America

Good nutrition, particularly in the first three years of one’s life, is important for establishing a good foundation that has implications for future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Unfortunately, food insecurity is an obstacle that threatens that critical foundation.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 15.9 million children—1 in 5—under the age of 18 in America live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life (Household Food Security in the United States in 2012. Table 1B.USDA ERS.) Additionally, Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap 2013 research found that 20 percent or more of the child population in each of 37 states and D.C. live in food-insecure households (Map the Meal Gap 2013, Feeding America).

Summer Harvests Can Turn Into Summer Meals for Kids

Summer is the season when harvests of healthful foods are most abundant: gardens overflow with zucchini and berries, trees are laden with sweet, ripe fruit, and farmers tend and harvest crops from dawn until dusk. Despite the seasonal abundance, many children go hungry when school is out and the food programs that fed them during the year are no longer part of their daily routine.

Bringing summer’s bounty to hungry kids is “just common sense” according to Cathy Rogers, School Food Service Director for Pipestone Area Schools, located in a small city of 4,000 in the southwest corner of Minnesota. Every day during the summer months, she serves fresh foods from local producers to 400 of her students.

Feeding Hungry Kids in the Summer? It’s a No Brainer!

Catholic Charities in Chicago is just one of many organizations that has committed to serving thousands of kids nutritious meals this summer through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Recently, FNS staff visited Catholic Charities headquarters in Chicago and met with Angel Gutierrez.

Mr. Gutierrez, Vice-President of Community Development and Outreach Services, shared a bit about their program operations and why they are committed to expanding to serve more hungry kids in the Chicago area. Watch this video clip to learn about how they have used the program to feed children and create jobs in the process.  Catholic Charities is one of many organizations working with Let’s Move! Faith and Communities to expand the number of SFSP sites this summer. Not to spoil the video, but in the summer of 2010 alone, they were able to serve 12,040 different children. Quite a summer!