A recent Washington Post article highlights a major impact of the recession on children’s well-being–pervasive hunger.
D.C. area after-school programs (probably others too) are becoming emergency food providers because so many children are showing up hungry. Programs that used to serve a light snack are finding they need to provide considerably more to compensate for what children aren’t getting at home.
One Southeast program reports that as many as half its students arrive hungry because, although they got free breakfasts and lunches at school, they didn’t get any dinner the night before. And they’re putting extra sandwiches in their backpacks, suggesting they expect no dinner when they get home.
The need is putting enormous stress on the budgets of the nonprofits that run these programs. They can get reimbursed for snacks through the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program. But the maximum reimbursement is $0.71 per snack–hardly enough to cover the cost of a nourishing meal.
Under the School Lunch Act, as amended, schools in 10 states are reimbursed for the cost of suppers, as well as snacks, if they are in districts where at least 50% of the children come from families with incomes at or below 185% of the federal poverty line. The suppers can be served not only on school days, but also on weekends and during holidays.
Other after-school programs in these 10 states are also eligible for supper reimbursements so long as they have “an educational or enrichment purpose.” The reimbursement rate is the same as for school lunches–currently $2.57.
Senator Debby Stabenow (D-MI) has introduced a bill that would extend this program nationwide. It’s the AFTERschool Meals Act of 2009 (S. 990). The bill currently has four cosponsors. It will need more to get the attention it deserves.
The Food Research and Action Center has posted a letter that all you fortunate folks with Senators can automatically e-mail to get more cosponsors.
We disenfranchised D.C. residents can adapt the letter and send it to Senators of our choice. If I had to pick just two, they’d be Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), who chairs the Agriculture Committee, and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of the Subcommittee on Nutrition and Food Assistance.
Our support can help ensure that the growing number of hungry children have three balanced, nutritious meals a day–at least, during the school year.
Summer meals are a subject for another posting.