Hunger Is, a joint charitable program of the Albertsons Companies Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), has been working with community-based organizations across the U.S. and national partners, like WhyHunger, to help end childhood hunger by investing in nutritious breakfast for every child! They have helped fuel innovative programs to provide 6.4 million healthy breakfasts to over 200,000 kids. Last year alone, their grantees in 33 states and the District of Columbia provided enough fresh fruits and vegetables to equal the weight of the Statue of Liberty – over 460,000 lbs. – to help give kids the fuel they need to grow, learn and thrive. We’ve been teaming up with Hunger Is to spotlight these critical programs and their impact. WhyHunger recently visited the Northern Illinois Food Bank to see their BackPack program in action and created this short video to share its impact.

The Northern Illinois Food Bank serves more than 71,500 people across thirteen counties of Northern Illinois. 66 percent of the households served fall at or below the federal poverty level and 36 percent of recipients are children under the age of 18. It’s a mix of small to mid-sized towns, Chicago suburbs and exurbs and rural agricultural communities. Despite being in America’s breadbasket with seemingly endless corn fields, food insecurity and a lack of nutritional options affect far too many residents.

The Food Bank has been addressing food needs since 1983 when Sister Rosemarie Burian began distributing food via soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters. Since then, the Food Bank has grown and evolved, realizing its role in not just providing food, but providing healthy food and reaching into the hunger gaps that exist within communities. A 2014 Hunger in America study found that 53 percent of households served by Northern Illinois Food Bank reported at least one family member with high blood pressure, while 26 percent of households had at least one family member with diabetes.

The Food Bank was seeking ways to combat diet-related disease, reach more people with healthy food and reach them at the right times even before that study. In 2008, the Food Bank began a BackPack program, which now distributes a variety of shelf-stable foods each week to students in more than 180 schools during the school year. The BackPack program aims to fill the meal gap for children at risk of hunger at times when they are not in school, such as evenings and weekends. School partners often reported that students who rely on free and reduced lunch for weekday meals would often come to school on Mondays feeling sluggish and irritable due to not having adequate access to meals over the weekend, thus putting them at a disadvantage to learn and perform.

“77 percent of the families we serve have reported that they will purchase inexpensive processed foods, even if unhealthy, to stretch their food budgets,” says Liz Gartman, Communications Manager at Northern Illinois Food Bank. “So we looked at how we could help mitigate the challenges of providing nutritious meals at home so these kids can have the proper nutrition over the weekends they need to grow and lead healthy, active lives.”

The BackPack program is simple: Food Bank staff and volunteers pack a variety of shelf-stable products – whole grain rice, cereals and pasta, milk, canned chicken or tuna, canned fruit and veggies – into rolling backpacks which are delivered to the 180+ schools each week. At the end of each week, each eligible student picks up their backpack and takes it home for the weekend, returning it Monday morning to be refilled later that week for the coming weekend.

The Food Bank continues to seek ways to expand its BackPack program, including growing it to include more summer sites, as summer break creates another critical hunger gap for many families. With funding support from various private donors, like Hunger Is, more backpacks can be filled with nutritious food to reach more children during the school year and summer break alike.

“Our overall mission of solving hunger means getting every hungry neighbor every meal every day, and that includes reaching kids no matter where they are,” says Gartman.

Hunger Is, a joint charitable program of the Albertsons Companies Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), builds awareness and raises funds to end childhood hunger. The Idaho Foodbank received a grant to fund efforts in Idaho. This is the third in a WhyHunger series of profiles of grant recipients and their impact.

While politicians recklessly propose cuts to destroy many of the basic living standards that help working and middle class families get ahead when times are tough or wages aren’t enough, anxiety rises for the already struggling families questioning their safety across the country. Now that summer is here and school is out, for millions of families, the stress multiplies. Summertime means hunger time for the over 21 million children in the U.S. who rely on free and reduced priced school meals during the rest of the year. Every child needs healthy, daily meals to continue learning and growing over the summer. That’s why WhyHunger is once again kicking off our Summer Meals Rock for Kids campaign!

In this critical time when basic necessities, like healthy food for families and children, are on the government’s chopping block, we must capitalize on our existing resources to take a stand and protect our children’s access to healthy food. The USDA’s Summer Food Service Program provides free, nutritious meals to kids at local centers across the U.S., but only 15% of eligible children participate, often due to a lack of awareness and information on where to find summer meals sites. Therefore, WhyHunger’s Summer Meals Rock for Kids campaign distributes information to families across the country to connect them with local resources and prevent hunger. With the largest database of emergency food providers and summer food sites in the country, we can fight the summer spike in childhood hunger and help more kids get the healthy food they need. We need your help to spread the word about these programs to ensure that all children have access to safe, healthy meals when school lets out.

Now more than ever, we must take action to make sure our children have the food they need this summer to grow, learn and thrive.

To find your closest Summer Food Service Program summer meals site:

• Call the WhyHunger Hotline at 1-800-5HUNGRY (1-800-548-6479) for service in both Spanish and English. The hotline is open Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 6:00pm EDT]
• Text “summer” and your zip code to 1-800-548-6479 to get a location within minutes
• Visit whyhunger.org/summermealsearch to find a site online.

And here’s how you can help:

Donate to support WhyHunger's Hotline and online database.
• Spread the word to your network and community by downloading and distributing flyers in English and Spanish at your local community centers, schools and libraries
Add graphics to your blog, website or social media accounts with #SummerMealsRock

You can find these materials and more at: whyhunger.org/summermeals. Thank you for making a difference this summer!

School Lunch is under attack from policies of “shaming” kids who can’t pay to an Administration that opts to loosen nutrition standards on School Lunch rather than help find solutions for schools to meet those standards, the nutritious school food that tens of millions of American children rely on is in jeopardy. We couldn’t agree more with our Board member Jan Poppendieck, quoted in today’s New York Times “We need to provide school meals on the same basis on which we provide school transportation and textbooks!”  We know that school meals offering nutritious food are a key element to the academic success and physical health of our children.

Let’s stand up for all our children and their right to nutritious food! Fellow organizations, you can take action with us via the Food Research and Action Center and sign-on to support bills that will outlaw school lunch shaming! The bills would end the practices of marking — or otherwise identifying — students who owe school lunch debt, of requiring them to do chores, or of taking food away once it has been served.

WhyHunger and Hunger Is are proud to support breakfast programs around the U.S.

The San Diego Food Bank received a grant from Hunger Is to enhance their School Breakfast Initiative. I talked to Jim Floros their Executive Director to learn more about the food bank itself and how their School Breakfast Initiative works.

Jim is a 30-year veteran in non-profit work and has a refreshingly holistic approach to food banking. He refers to the San Diego Food Bank as a “nutrition bank” that is working to go beyond merely feeding people but providing nutritious food to all their clients, especially the children. They serve 465,000 of the poorest people including 180,000 children in San Diego and the surrounding area. They believe in the adage that if you feed a child well they will learn and grow up to earn and stay out of poverty. They understand that good food is only one of several elements necessary for a child to learn and grow; yet they are determined to provide the best food possible for the most children facing poverty and hunger.

The Food Bank has a number of programs to acquire fresh fruits and vegetables and they focus on providing healthy food for all and especially the children. Jim is also reaching out to other food banks around the country to share their model and innovative approaches to breakfast and many other programs providing good food.

With support from Hunger Is, the San Diego Food Bank was able to grow their breakfast program in several ways, increasing number of children who receive breakfast and the quality of the food. The following offers a good summary of their efforts.

Increasing Healthy Breakfast in San Diego

A healthy, nutritious breakfast makes all the difference for young children. The first meal of the day sets them up for the learning and play that follows.

The San Diego Food Bank, with support from Hunger Is, has developed a 4-Point Breakfast Initiative to further increase participation in this first meal by thousands of very low-income children in San Diego County who are all too often also chronically hungry.

Part 1

Last fall, the Food Bank added 100 students from low-income families to the Food 4 Kids Backpack Program, increasing the number of children on the program who are provided with breakfast foods over the weekend.

At a cost of just $200 per child, Food 4 Kids Backpack distributes backpacks full of nutritious, child-friendly food to chronically hungry elementary school children who are receiving free meals at school during the week, but show signs of chronic hunger on Monday morning. Some of these children were returning to school on Monday not having eaten since Friday’s lunch!

The Food 4 Kids Backpack Program targets chronically hungry children in San Diego County by working in select public schools where more than 85% of the children receive government-sponsored free or reduced-price meals during the school week, but have no such provisions over weekends.

All children who receive free/reduced-price lunches through government programs are eligible to receive Food Bank backpacks.

In partnership with school principals, counselors, teachers, parents, and dedicated volunteer leaders, the Food Bank initiated our Food 4 Kids Backpack Program in 2006 by targeting 75 needy children in 2 of our poorest institutions. Over its 10-year history, the program has seen tremendous growth thanks to generous donors – foundation, corporate and individual. We are currently serving 1,730 children every week.

Chronically hungry children are identified by teachers and school staff using guidelines and warning signs for program eligibility. These children are provided new backpacks each school year. Every Friday, the backpacks are filled with food that is nutritious, nonperishable, and easily-consumed.

Breakfast items constitute a significant portion of the food provided. This year's menu of breakfast-specific food includes Toasty O's, Oat Blenders with Honey, Whole Grain Cereal Bars Strawberry, Fruit Burst Squeezers, reduced fat milk and oatmeal.

As an added benefit, the Food Bank has adopted a mandate to fight childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes. To that end, the Food Bank makes available ample supplies of fresh produce once a month at participating Backpack Program schools. Additionally, Food Bank staff offers their services at all backpack schools to assist families in the complex process of applying for and receiving CalFresh benefits (formerly known as Food Stamps).

Part 2

The second feature of the Food Bank’s effort to increase the consumption of breakfast by our young clients includes the distribution of 18,000 Family Units of whole grain buttermilk pancake mix through the Food 4 Kids Backpack Program. This longtime breakfast staple will be a welcome addition to the once-a-month Family Packs students take home in addition to their regular weekly backpacks of food. The handy packet makes for easy placement in the current F4KBP backpacks. Additionally, the Food Bank plans to purchase thousands of pounds of fresh fruits to be distributed through our Summer Lunch Program. Students participating in this program typically come to a Summer Lunch Program distribution without having eaten a healthy, nutritious breakfast. The majority of them participate in the free and reduced-price meal programs at school, but these meal programs are unavailable to these students in the summer months. Students will receive a variety of easy-to-consume fruits and nutrition education information on the importance of a well-balanced diet.

Food 4 Kids Backpack Program 527x323Part 3

Building on the successful nutrition education materials identified and distributed by the Food Bank to Food 4 Kids Backpack Program students over the last year, the Food Bank plans to take the next step in our nutrition education outreach programming. Through this program, we plan to offer cooking demo classes for kids either at backpack schools or in affiliated afterschool programs. Held three times throughout the grant year, these nutrition education interactive events will feature lessons incorporating a healthy, easy breakfast tasting and a nutrition game that incorporates physical activity. The cooking demo events will be coordinated and delivered by the Food Bank’s Nutrition and Wellness Educator, who is a Registered Dietitian, and her staff. The events will be open to all students and family members.

The Food Bank will also continue to include colorful and engaging nutrition education materials in the backpacks of Food 4 Kids Backpack Program students. These materials will highlight important features of a healthy breakfast and well-balanced diet and practical tips for adults including breakfast recipes.

Part 4

The Food Bank has recently rolled out a successful Food Rescue Program across the County of San Diego.

The program has seen nearly 600,000 pounds of food secured from area grocers who donate perishable food a significant proportion of which makes its way to breakfast tables of hundreds of thousands of poor and chronically hungry children through our vast network of food distribution programs.

The Food Bank works with a variety of local charitable agencies to receive the contents of the Food Rescue Program for quick and efficient distribution to San Diegans in need.

With 370,000 low-income people in San Diego County every month turning to the Food Bank for hunger relief, the Food Rescue Program plays a significant role in meeting this need.

What has the USDA’s School Breakfast Program (SBP) done for American children in its 50 years of existence? Find out in this new report by Janet Poppendieck, activist, author, professor emerita at Hunter College and WhyHunger Board Member as she examines the history, challenges, policy gains and role of advocacy in shaping the program on its 50th anniversary.

What we know for sure is that this program has provided nutritious food to millions of kids in the US. Since SBP was established, the Average Daily Participation has grown from about 80,000 in the first year of operation to 14,900,000 last year. But how did we get here and how do we keep this critical program in place as an effective tool in the fight against hunger and poverty?

“In my view, the fifty-year effort to make school breakfast more available, accessible, acceptable and nutritious is an outstanding example of effective advocacy and possibly the best example of productive cooperation between national anti-hunger organizations and state and local groups.” – Janet Poppendieck

Dig in to the report here and share! 

WhyHunger is proud to join over 1,500 national, state and community-based organizations in signing onto the below statement opposing block granting for school meals. The statement, organized by our friends at FRAC (the Food, Research & Action Center), is an important step in protecting the health, food security and well-being of tens of millions of kids across the country.

The United States has a history of strong bipartisan commitment to support effective programs focused on school nutrition ensuring that children do not go hungry and are prepared to learn in the classroom.  These vital programs are being targeted and are threatened under the guise of a three-state demonstration pilot project that would block grant important school meal programs.  These programs have proven their effectiveness time and time again, and block granting them would remove the federal government’s important role in ensuring their implementation, protecting nutritional standards and even potentially limit their ability to increase funding in areas that show need.  Giving states discretion on how to spend federal funds and set their own criteria for programs like School Breakfast, National School Lunch, Team Nutrition and the Special Milk program poses a threat to those families who are currently relying on these programs to keep their kids healthy and fed. Many low-income children stand to be left out of these vital programs as intended dollars can easily be diverted to other priorities of the state.  For example, there is no requirement for running the programs year round or providing funding for more than one meal a day. Block granting is a bad idea and too ambiguous, leaving no mechanism for holding states accountable and ultimately undermining the proven effectiveness of these important nutrition programs.

Now is the time to take action! Please join FRAC and WhyHunger and commit to the fight against the flawed child nutrition reauthorization bill or H.R. 5003 – especially the block grant:

For organizations

Step 1: Sign the statement opposing the school meals block grant provision in the House CNR bill here.

Step 2: Use social media to help get the word out: 

• Sample Tweet: Join [@your org hashtag] & over 1500 orgs opposing school meal block grant. Sign the statement today! //bit.ly/1XPG0OT #SaveSchoolMeals #CNR2016 

For Individuals

Step 1: Check out FRAC’s Legislative Action Center for updates on CNR, advocacy tools, social media templates, and more.

Background (Provided by FRAC):
On May 18, the House Education and the Workforce Committee voted out the House Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) bill, H.R. 5003, including a dangerous three-state block grant proposal for the school meal programs. This block grant would end the federal government’s ability to increase funding in areas of need, enforce child nutrition standards in school meals, and ensure students in need receive enough nutritious food year-round. Many other provisions of H.R. 5003 are also of serious concern, including a more difficult application process, harmful changes in community eligibility, and weakened school nutrition standards.

To learn more about the House CNR Bill and the block grant provision, read FRAC’s latest analysis of the bill.  
___________


Opposition Statement to School Meal Block Grant Provision
Included in “Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016
(H.R. 5003)


We write to express our strong opposition to the block grant provision included in the “Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016” (H.R. 5003), and we would oppose any proposal to block grant any child nutrition program. The highly effective child nutrition programs are designed to reduce hunger, improve health, and support learning. Block granting them is misguided and would diminish their ability to accomplish these fundamental goals.

The three-state block grant proposal included in the House bill would immediately cut the funding to operate the school nutrition programs in those states. It would eliminate the additional six-cent reimbursement that 98 percent of school districts receive for meeting the improved nutrition standards and the federal funding provided to support paid meals. After that cut, funding is capped at the fiscal year 2016 funding level. With each year, the programs’ ability to serve low-income children will erode even further as the states will no longer qualify for the annual funding adjustments that are based on food price inflation – resulting in fewer meals provided to fewer needy children. Additionally, this approach means that states will be unable to respond to any increase in need arising from a recession or population growth.

Furthermore, the meals would no longer have to meet consistent nutrition standards as they are only required to be “healthy.” This would create a patchwork of standards that seriously diminishes the school meals programs’ ability to promote good nutrition and improve child health outcomes and makes it difficult to procure the food needed. Participating states could set their own eligibility rules. Moreover, there would be no requirement that children have access to both school breakfast and lunch, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture would have minimal authority to ensure that the child nutrition funding that the states receive is being used to meet the nutritional needs of the children in the state.

The current structure of the child nutrition programs is based upon a shared, bipartisan commitment to provide children access to the nutritious meals they need in order to grow up healthy and achieve academically, and it allows the programs to respond to any increase in need. This commitment must be maintained. We urge you to reject any proposals to block grant the child nutrition programs.

Read and sign on here.

It’s officially summer and that means a lot of different things for people. Unfortunately for the millions of children that rely on schools to get their breakfast and lunch meals, it means the time that they are the hungriest. But, we can all do something about it. Each year, WhyHunger teams up with the USDA and organizations across the country to help fill the gap during the summer. During the school year, more than 21 million children rely on free and reduced priced meals provided by the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, but only 18% participate in the USDA's Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). SFSP’s provides free, nutritious meals for kids at local organizations such as schools, recreation centers, playgrounds, parks, churches, summer camps and more all over the country – all summer long. However, these locations tend to change year to year – that’s where you and WhyHunger come in!

WhyHunger’s Summer Meals Rock for Kids campaign creates awareness about the summer meals program, and activates celebrity auctions and artist ambassadors that raise funds to support the national WhyHunger Hotline and our comprehensive database that is updated regularly and now includes over 38,000 summer meal locations to connect families in need to free, healthy food closest to them when they need it most.

To find your closest Summer Food Service Program summer meals site:

  • Call the WhyHunger Hotline at 1-800-5HUNGRY (1-800-548-6479) for service in both Spanish and English. The hotline is open Monday through Friday, from 9:00am EDT to 6:00pm EDT]
  • Text “summer” and your zip code to 1-800-548-6479 to get a location within minutes
  • Visit whyhunger.org/summermealsearch to find a site online.

And here’s how you can help:

  • Donate to support WhyHunger's Hotline and online database. 
  • Spread the word to your network and community by downloading and distributing flyers in English and Spanish at your local community centers, schools and libraries
  • Add graphics to your blog, website or social media accounts

You can find these materials and more at: whyhunger.org/summermeals. Thank you for making a difference this summer!

This post first appeared in The Huffington Post.

One in five children in America lives in poverty. Summer is the time when more children are hungry than at any other time of the year because they are not receiving free school meals during the week.

That means that their families have to provide for some 150 meals during the summer just for one child. For a family with two or more children earning $15,000 or less, or even earning twice as much, the cost is a budget breaker.

Fortunately, there are government-supported solutions that, with proper support and advocacy, can help all children have a hunger-free summer.

Since 1968 the USDA Food and Nutrition Services has run the Summer Food Service Program which has grown in the past few years to serve more than two and a half million children June - August at almost 50,000 sites all across the country. WhyHunger has supported the work of the USDA for several years to identify where the programs exist and then make that information available through our WhyHunger Hotline at 1-800-548-6479. Now through our brand new texting service, there’s an easier way to find food for children in your area by texting SUMMER plus your zip code to 1-800-548-6479 or searching our database at whyhunger.org/summermeals. Thousands of local organizations are doing heroic work to make sure children eat during the summer but despite all that work the program still only reaches about 15 percent of the eligible children.

A few years ago, WhyHunger came up with a different solution to summer hunger. We suggested to USDA that they add money to an eligible family’s SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) EBT card during the summer months. USDA has been running a pilot program over the past four years targeting families in several states whose children are eligible but are not receiving summer meals. The results of the pilot showed a reduction in childhood hunger during the summer by one third. The children were also consuming less sugary drinks and eating 12 percent more fruits and vegetables and 30 percent more grains. Many studies have shown that good nutrition aids cognition. There has always been a drop off in cognition during the summer for poor children because of hunger.

Continue reading the full article on The Huffington Post.

$26.9 million in grant funds will be distributed among eight grantees to continue administering pilots of the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) programs, providing summertime nutrition assistance to children who receive free and reduced price meals during the school year. These grants will extend benefits to new rural areas, Tribal Nations, and areas of extreme need including Flint, Michigan. Summer EBT provides a monthly benefit on a debit-type card that can be used throughout the summer for food purchases at authorized stores. Summer EBT is a complement to traditional summer meals programs, which offer no cost summer meals at approved sites, and is especially valuable in areas with limited or no access to traditional summer meals programs.The Obama administration also shared its plan to include a provision in the president's 2017 budget, which would allocate $12 billion over 10 years to the Summer EBT program.  

Summer EBT, which is currently operating as demonstration project, was first funded by Congress in 2010. Rigorous evaluations of these pilots found that Summer EBT can significantly reduce very low food security among children, the most severe form of food insecurity, by one-third. Studies also showed that these additional resources enabled families to eat more healthfully, eating significantly more fruits and vegetables and whole grains – key building blocks to better health. Based on these proven successes, the President's proposed plan would allow Summer EBT to reach nearly 20 million children once fully implemented.

Bill Ayres, Co-founder and Ambassador of WhyHunger, supports the program: "Some years ago as Executive Director of WhyHunger, I met with senators and USDA officials about this very idea - that is, to run a pilot program to feed hungry children during the summer when they do not receive school lunch and breakfast.  It was really a simple idea.  Additional funds are added to the family's SNAP Card each month when the children are not in school.  Though it's many years since that first meeting when the idea was proposed, I'm so pleased to see that there are now bills in Congress to grow the program nationally and President Obama has put it in the budget for a major increase. WhyHunger supports the growth of this program and encourages people and organizations to promote much needed food for our country's poorest children."
 
This year's grantees include Cherokee Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, and Oregon. The aim is to serve over 250,000 children total, nearly 90 percent more, or over 120,000 additional children, than in 2015. Read the rest of the press release here.

Hunger IsWhyHunger is honored to join the Advisory Committee for Hunger Is, a new joint charitable program from the Safeway Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) designed to raise awareness, engage volunteers and raise funds in support of eradicating childhood hunger in America. 

Hunger Is kicked off this past spring with a month-long fundraiser in 1,300 Safeway stores across the country, raising more than $4.6 million in the first month with the help of online donations. Since the kickoff, $1.3 million in charitable grants have been awarded to 198 deserving organizations, including many WhyHunger partners. Managers of participating stores provided grant nominations, choosing food banks and anti-hunger organizations serving their local communities and neighborhoods. The Advisory Committee made recommendations and offered guidance for the approval of the grants by the Safeway Foundation and EIF, and grant awards ranged from $2,000 to $63,000.

"I am honored to help bring attention to Hunger Is and increase public awareness of the problem of childhood hunger right here in America, and I am thrilled to see how swiftly we are responding to the issue at the most local levels with the award of over $1.3 million in grants," stated Academy Award®-nominated actress and Hunger Is ambassador Viola Davis. "Millions of children go hungry every day in the United States. I was one of those children and I pledge to tell and re-tell my story until we have eradicated childhood hunger across the nation."

WhyHunger congratulates all grant recipients, including these WhyHunger partners:

To learn more and donate, go to HungerIs.org. Join the conversation by following @HungerIs on Twitter and using the hashtag #HungerIs, and by checking out the Hunger Is Facebook page.

 

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