Thursday, July 9, 2009

Texas Food Banks Call for Changes to Child Nutrition Programs

During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama announced a goal of ending childhood hunger in America by the year 2015. Since then, recession, health care and other issues have taken the national stage, but this goal is still achievable!

Texas has the highest rate of children facing hunger in the nation – 22%. This year, Congress is scheduled to rewrite some of the key programs affecting the nutrition of Texas children. The Texas Food Bank Network has agreed on a set of detailed policy changes to achieve this goal:

National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
After SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), school lunch is the largest anti-hunger program in the country, and a potent lever for changing the way children learn about food and healthy habits. Unfortunately, school lunch in Texas doesn’t reach all the children who need it due to stigma and difficulty enrolling eligible families. Food quality also suffers due to low reimbursement rates, competitive junk foods outside the cafeteria, a thicket of conflicting nutrition rules and a general feeling that school lunch is “welfare food.” Congress can improve the NSLP by:
  • Forcing competitive foods to meet the same science-based standards as cafeteria food (S.934 / H.R.1324)
  • Eliminating the "reduced price" lunch category to cut red tape and feed more children
  • Making the successful Philadelphia "Universal Free" model a national option (S. 1226 / H.R. 2803)
  • Improving direct certification through other programs to save paperwork & enroll more eligible families (S. 1343)
  • Simplifying nutrition standards to allow for local food sourcing & more commonsense rules
School Breakfast
School breakfast provides nutrition early in the day, when it is needed most for learning, and contributes to better behavior in the classroom. Unfortunately, participation in school breakfast in Texas is low due to stigma, and the difficulty in getting to school early before buses run. Congress can improve school breakfast participation by:
Supplemental Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC)
WIC provides new & expectant mothers with nutritionist-approved food vital for early childhood development. Unfortunately, WIC is a discretionary program, and so annual funding routinely falls behind rising food prices and expanding caseloads in tough economic times. This makes it difficult for caseworkers to advertise slots that may not exist in the next fiscal year. Congress can improve WIC by:
  • Appropriating enough funding in the FY 2010 budget to meet the growing need
  • Excluding combat pay from income for the purposes of determining eligibility (S.581)
Child and Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP)
CACFP reimburses community organizations like food banks for providing after-school meals in settings that include tutoring, physical activity & nutrition education. Unfortunately, smaller organizations have difficulty meeting the program requirements using the small “snack” reimbursement, which is the highest reimbursement available in 44 states. Congress can improve CACFP by:
  • Bringing the higher "supper" reimbursement option nationwide (S.990/H.R. 3321)
  • Encouraging data-sharing between CACFP sponsors and local school districts
Summer Nutrition Programs
The summer nutrition programs recognize that hunger doesn’t take a vacation, and hungry children are missing school meals when school is out. Unfortunately, participation is very low in Texas, due to inconsistent outreach and a lack of organizations willing to sponsor sites. Congress can help more organizations sponsor sites by:
  • Increasing reimbursement levels and and assisting in rural transportation costs
  • Reducing sponsor paperwork where possible
  • Decreasing area eligibility from 50% of the poverty line to 40% (H.R. 540)
These programs are the front-line in the fight against child hunger in Texas, and changing them will be vital to its elimination. Sign up now to find out how you can help!

1 comment:

callie said...

Yes, great post! Slow Food USA's Time for Lunch campaign is organizing a day of Eat-Ins across the nation to improve child nutrition programs. Check it out and register your local Eat-In at http://slowfoodusa.org/index.php/campaign/time_for_lunch