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

Children who miss meals regularly, especially breakfast, are more likely to be held back a grade, and receive special education services and mental health counseling than children who do not struggle with food insecurity. Children who eat a healthy breakfast have increased brain development, ability to focus, better attendance and overall academic capacity, according to the Illinois School Breakfast Financial Sustainability Report written by the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

I spoke with Suzanne Lee who works in the Policy and Advocacy Department of the Greater Chicago Food Depository Breakfast Program to learn about how policy, breakfast and social good are helping nourish kids in Chicago. Suzanne explained that a new state law has been passed in Illinois that mandates free After the Bell breakfast for any school that has a seventy percent or more poverty rate. This law will be implemented this coming year to help 78,000 children in Chicago access healthy, free meals to start their day!

To prepare the schools and the families for this major change, the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) has leveraged a grant from the Hunger Is initiative to host five events throughout Chicago to make sure the whole school system is prepared and the children and families know how this new After the Bell breakfast program will work. They also printed and distributed educational material that further explains the new system.

The GCFD utilizes a dual strategy for promoting healthy breakfast for children; offering community support for legislation on a state and local level, like After the Bell breakfast, that will benefit children and families in need alongside educational events, as well as creating literature and campaigns to explain the benefits of the legislation and encourage participation. All too often the very people who can benefit the most from a piece of legislation like this have not heard enough about it to embrace it enthusiastically and support it.

In the not too distant past food banks and emergency food providers saw their role simply as giving food to hungry people. Fortunately, that has changed and GCFD is a good example of a more holistic approach to fighting hunger and poverty. The support from Hunger Is has helped GCFD and organizations across the country to strengthen this trend and multiply the impact of their strategies to reach many more hungry people, and especially help children access nutritious meals.

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.

WhyHunger and Hunger Is are proud to support breakfast programs in NJ.

The New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition is co-chair of the Food for Thought Campaign which has successfully increased the number of low income students eating breakfast by 75 percent. When the campaign began five years ago, New Jersey was 46th in the country for students receiving a free school breakfast. Adele LaTourette, the Coalition’s Director worked with Campaign co-chair, Advocates for Children of NJ, to form a broad based grassroots coalition that included parents, educators, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and several other local and statewide hunger/poverty organizations. National campaign partners are the Food Research and Action Center, and the American Dairy Association and Council.

The campaign also works with the New Jersey Department of Education to promote “After the Bell” breakfasts. Most schools were offering breakfast before school starts and the response was sparse because of the time. The coalition promoted Breakfast in the Classroom and “Grab and Go” which the Department of Education deemed as instructional time, the best of both worlds- eat and learn.

Because of the efforts of this broad based coalition, more than 100,000 additional children now have free breakfast in the classroom and New Jersey is ranked 23rd in the nation, a far cry from 46th but still not good enough. The Food for Thought Campaign is continuing its work and is targeting school districts with the lowest participation rates. The Campaign is also expanding its efforts, working to ensure that every child in New Jersey has access to a healthy meal, three times a day, 365 days a year. These efforts focus on targeted communities in New Jersey and expanding community access to both the summer food service program and the after school supper program.

This is an excellent example of a grassroots movement that also involves government and businesses such as the Dairy Council and never gives up.

This post first appeared in The Huffington Post.

Doctor Norman Borlaug the Father of the Green Revolution founded the World Food Prize in 1986 to promote the work of scientists and agricultural organizations that promote the production of food through technology. Over the years the prize has been given to dozens of top agricultural scientists and organizations which have pioneered biotechnological solutions for increasing food production, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Yet the solutions and science honored at these ceremonies aren’t solving the hunger problem in our world.

The Food Sovereignty Prize begun in 2009 to champion social movements, activists and community-based organizations around the world working to ensure that all people have access to fresh, nutritious food produced in harmony with the planet. Food Sovereignty means that people should be able to grow, eat and sell their own food in the manner they choose. Members believe that increased dependence on technology, as heralded in the World Food Prize honorees, in the form of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, and GMO seeds is not the answer to hunger and food production. Control of the food system by large corporations is not the way to protect the environment and decrease hunger and poverty. Access to land, clean water, native seeds and fair markets as well as protection from land grabs and state-sponsored violence are what small farmers need. Millions of small farmers have embraced agroecology, a method of growing food sustainably that combines the best of traditional agriculture with many of the best new agricultural breakthroughs that are affordable and safe for the environment, the food and the farmers. It is a way of life in which whole communities come together to share resources and learn from one another.

The Food Sovereignty Prize celebrates the achievements of organizations that have succeeded in growing food and promoting economic and social justice often in the face of oppression and violence from large landholders and repressive governments.

This year, the Eighth Annual Food Sovereignty Prize will honor The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), which brings together a number of different constituencies: small farmers, pastoralists, hunter/gatherers, indigenous peoples, women, youth, consumer networks, people of faith and environmental activists in the fight for food sovereignty. Small farmers and the poorest of the poor have a strong voice in the Alliance for Food Sovereignty against land and water grabs and for a more just system for its members. As Bern Guri, AFSA chairperson, noted in the official press release, “Africa has a myriad of ways to feed her people and to keep her environment safe. However, a few international corporations from the global North have generated approaches strictly for their own profit by misleading our leaders and our people, stealing our seeds and culture, and destroying our environment.”

Also receiving the prize is the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF). Farmworkers all over the U.S. have been unjustly treated for years and those in Florida have suffered from low wages, unsafe working conditions, sexual violence in the fields and illnesses from agricultural chemicals. FWAF has helped farmworkers to gain control of the economic, social, health, workplace and political issues they face such as racism, pesticide exposure, environmental contamination and economic exploitation. It has brought people together in communities to practice agroecology and bring healing to the communities through good food and herbs.

Continue reading the full article on The Huffington Post. 

This post first appeared in The Huffington Post.

How can the richest country in the history of the world that has an abundance of food have so many hungry people? Who are they? How can we change this grave injustice?

Even after a substantial recovery from the Great Recession we still have 48 million people in our country who are food insecure including 15 million children and 5.4 million seniors. That does not mean they are starving but they often skip meals and are forced to buy cheap unhealthy food. The majority of the adults who are hungry work but cannot afford to feed their families. There are also a million homeless people facing hunger including an increasing number of families with children.

There is a growing movement among hunger/poverty advocates, faith based organizations of all denominations, small farmers, environmental activists, labor unions and businesses to vote for candidates for the presidency and other national, state and local officials who support efforts to end hunger, alleviate poverty and create opportunity in the U.S. and around the world.

These are topics that often are lost in the furor of personal attacks and rarely become major issues in presidential and other important elections. Yet in poll after poll, a large majority of Americans say we should and can end hunger in America. Many of these folks support an emergency food program in their neighborhood but after more than forty years with tens of thousands of local food pantries and soup kitchens it has become clear that simply feeding people is not the answer to hunger.

WhyHunger is joining hundreds of organizations and individuals in the Vote to End Hunger Coalition to elevate the issue of hunger with the Presidential candidates during the 2016 election. Consider signing this petition to make hunger, poverty and opportunity a higher political priority and ensure the debate moderators ask the candidates, “If elected, what will you do to end hunger, alleviate poverty, and create opportunity in the US and worldwide?” during the upcoming presidential debates.

We certainly need to ask the candidates whether they support the already successful federal anti -hunger programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ( SNAP) that has successfully replaced Food Stamps and all the child nutrition programs. But, what about dealing with poverty, the root cause of hunger? Do they support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next five or so years? Do they support equal pay for equal work for women? What about pay raises for those who are not covered by minimum wage laws like farmworkers? How about supporting paid leave to take care of a newborn child or an elderly parent? Are they in favor of making it easier for workers to join a union? Are they on board to form a bi-partisan congressional effort to fund a massive Infrastructure/Jobs program?

Continue reading the full article on The Huffington Post. 

This post first appeared in The Huffington Post.

When President Franklin Roosevelt proposed legislation for the New Deal at the height of the Great Depression in the 1930s he needed the support of the South to pass it in congress. As a result, the vast majority of Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans were excluded from most of the benefits and protections that were given to white people. Roosevelt’s New Deal did save the country from an even worse and longer depression and laid the groundwork for prosperity for decades to come but millions were left out.

Now, in 2016 we are finally coming out of the Great Recession, yet millions of people have been left behind in poverty, low wage jobs, poor education, hunger and uncertainty about their future. The issue of economic inequality has moved from the back burner to the front of our awareness and consciences. Why do so few have so much? Why do so many have so little? How can that be healthy for a majority of our people and for our country as a whole? Where is there hope for change?

This election provides a unique opportunity for an economic sea change in America. The Republican candidate may set the stage for a major Democratic victory in November that ripples down to the Senate, House and state elections. That could then create a mandate for deep change in policies and programs on all levels. Bernie Sanders has successfully moved Hillary Clinton toward the progressive wing of the Democratic Party on many issues that are on the minds and in the hearts of a majority of Americans. A major win for the Democrats in November could transfer power in the Senate, several state governors and perhaps two or three dozen House of Representatives seats. It could set the stage for a “New Deal for A New Century” that would transform the economy and the politics of America. There are major issues that Clinton and Sanders basically agree on. She has said that she wants to work on several of the most important ones right away not just one or two. Let’s take a look in a series of articles at what a New Deal for a New Century would look like. Let’s start with work.

Justice for America’s Workers

A recent Pew Research Center survey showed some startling figures. The share of income for middle-class Americans fell from 62 percent in 1970 to 43 percent in 2014. During the same time upper-income families increased from 29 percent to 49 percent. How can we reverse those numbers and help more people to re-enter the middle class and poor people to rise to it? There are many government programs that help but the place to start is incomes.

Democrats want to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over several years and index it to inflation. How many people will this effect? Well, 42 percent of all American workers earn less than $15 an hour. Think about the billions of dollars that would put back into the economy and the millions of people who would move out of poverty. Several large American cities and New York State, California and Washington D.C. are already moving in that direction. Legislators can learn from their experiences how to build the wage hikes out nationally without substantial job or business loss.

Democrats also want to pass a Family Values Package that would include paid sick leave, paid vacations and paid family leave. This should appeal to all those who believe and preach family values which have suffered dearly because parents are working two or three jobs and are rarely home together with their children. Somehow, many politicians who say they support family values do not support a living wage for those families. They need to be held accountable.

Continue reading the full article on The Huffington Post. 

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.

This post first appeared in The Huffington Post.

“It’s the economy stupid.” “End welfare as we know it.”

These two quotes from the era of President Bill Clinton summarize two of what supporters and even many critics say were his two greatest domestic policy accomplishments. The economy certainly improved dramatically during his tenure. The late 90s did “lift all economic boats” including the tiny rowboats of the poor. Unemployment was 7.5 in 1992 the year before Clinton took office and plummeted to 4.0 by the end of his tenure. During that time 23.9 million jobs were created, more living wage jobs than now. The federal deficit which was $290 BILLION in 1992 flipped to a surplus of $236.4 BILLION by 2000. All in all, it is an impressive economic legacy.

AND, President Clinton did “end welfare as we know it.” His best ally in this fight was the Republican Party. At the time that the legislation passed there were 4 million families on the new version of welfare, TANF Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. That number has been reduced to some 1.6 million today. Benefits have fallen by 32.5 percent due to inflation and half of those on the program live in only two states, New York and California. Two thirds of all the funds allocated by congress for TANF are spent on non TANF budget items. The money has been block-granted to the states and they decide how to spend it.

At the time of the welfare reform passage the economy was humming and many of the poorest of the poor were able to find jobs. The reform was seen to be a major success for the Clinton Administration. Since then we have seen a very different story. During the deepest bottom of the Great Recession of 2008 the New York Times reported that there were 8 million people whose only income was Food Stamps, now called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Most people did not even apply for TANF because they knew there was little or no money available in their state. Thankfully, the economy has improved and unemployment has been cut in half but there are still 24.4 million people in deep poverty, making less than half of the federal poverty line of $24,250 for a family of four. There are 7 million children and teens living in deep poverty. The vast majority receive nothing from TANF.

President Clinton vetoed the welfare legislation twice before he signed it. The Republicans threw in severe cuts to Food Stamps that Clinton did not like but, in the end, he signed the legislation. Hillary Clinton encouraged him to sign it. She believed that generous work support programs like Earned Income Tax Credit, free childcare programs, mandated support from absent parents (mostly fathers) and housing support programs added to even low wage job earnings would support a deeply poor family. Many who were involved in the legislation were disappointed but thought it might work as long as the economy was healthy. It has not worked that way for millions of children and their parents.

Continue reading the full article on The Huffington Post.

This post first appeared in Care2.com

During this and all presidential campaigns we enter into the confusing “world of political spin and scams.” What you hear may very well be far from reality or worse.

This is something everyone knows on some level but millions of people are persuaded by bluster, lies, half- truths, distortions and out and out attacks on a person’s integrity. This is something we have sadly learned to live with although it has become worse and all- consuming with the advent of social media.

It is part of the political and media landscape of our lives.

However, spin scams go way beyond politics, invading the everyday concerns of our life such as our food.

In the last decade a relatively new phenomenon has emerged: The Food Spin Scam. It has precedent in the Cigarette/Tobacco Spin Scam of the last century that was responsible for the suffering and death of millions of smokers and non- smokers. In retrospect, that one should have been a no-brainer. Science had proven that tobacco kills but what a long hard battle against the tobacco companies it has been and continues to be for millions of people who still smoke.

The Food Spin Scam is more subtle and has several incarnations. Chemical companies, food companies, industrial agriculture and big pharmaceutical companies have developed a high powered, all pervasive, highly funded and effective media and political campaign to convince the American public that they are the guardians of America’s food and health.

All their chemicals, GMO products, antibiotics in animals and livestock, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer are perfectly safe and absolutely necessary to protect our food sources and fight climate change and hunger. Just give them a fair chance to make their case. They have science and scientists on their side. We should not be science deniers.

Continue reading the full article on Care2.com

This post first appeared in The Huffington Post.

The way to end hunger is to feed people, right? That may seem like a no-brainer but it is not enough.

When Harry Chapin and I co-Founded WhyHunger in 1975 we knew that hunger in America had become a major problem. From the beginning, we believed that the root cause of hunger is poverty and the root cause of poverty is powerlessness in the face of economic injustice. We also knew that racism was at the core of hunger and poverty for tens of millions of Americans. Tragically, that has not changed in more than 40 years even though progress has been made on several fronts.

Federal nutrition programs were in their infancy or adolescence in 1975. Food stamps were not free. The Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program (WIC) had only started in 1974. The School Lunch Program had been growing for almost 30 years but was still not universal. The Summer Meals Program was just beginning and the School Breakfast Program was almost ten years old but still reached a small percentage of children.

Food banks were just sprouting up here and there around the country and in most cities and rural areas soup kitchens and food pantries were few and far between. When WhyHunger started the New York City Hunger Hotline in 1978 there were only about 28 emergency food providers in all of New York City. Now there are well over a thousand. There were virtually no emergency food providers in the suburbs which now have the highest growth rate in the country for hunger and poverty.

Over the past 40 years thousands of community based organizations and dozens of national anti- hunger/anti- poverty organizations have worked tirelessly to strengthen the Federal Nutrition Programs with continuing success. Food Stamps have been replaced by a much more efficient and user friendly free debit card, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Some 45.5 million people are now served by SNAP. Child Nutrition and Senior Nutrition programs have grown and improved as well.

Meanwhile, we have created the most effective system of Emergency Food Providers in the world, some 60,500 soup kitchens, food pantries and homeless shelters and more than 200 food banks run by the most hard working, well intentioned charitable people imaginable. Every year they serve more food to more people, most who are also being helped by one or more of the federal food programs.

Continue reading the full article on The Huffington Post.

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