Let All Who are Hungry Come and Eat

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by David Goodman
Legislative Assistant, RAC

(Originally published on RACblog)

Believe it or not, the impetus for the creationof the National School Lunch Program in 1946 was that malnourishmentwas rendering large numbers of young men ineligible to join themilitary. When President Truman signed the 1946 National School LunchAct, the preface said thatthe creation of the program was a “measure of national security, tosafeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children.” (Can youimagine anyone saying that today?). Today, Child Nutrition Programs area crucial financial safety net for over 31 million students who receivebreakfast, lunch, and an afterschool snack during the school year, aswell as during the summer. These programs all fall under the ChildNutrition Reauthorization Bill, which is coming before Congress thisyear to be reviewed and refunded.

The depth and breadth of hunger in the United States can be easily conveyed by statistics: 17.6 million food insecure households, making up 49.1 million people. A record ofnearly 38 million people relied on Supplemental Nutrition AssistanceProgram (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps, at last count.These numbers are even starker for children: the food insecurity ratefor households with children is nearly double the overall average.Feeding America, which operates more than 200 food banks and soupkitchens across the country, found that 38% of those they served were children under age 18, and four out of five food insecure families served have children under 18.

Child nutrition programs ease theburden on these families by assuring children at least one healthy meala day. But these are more than nutrition programs: Studies show thatschool meals have a positive effect not only on hunger but also onclassroom behavior, test scores and school attendance. School mealsalso support better nutrition, and address the problem of childhoodobesity and related health problems. They are a multi-frontanti-poverty tool, and must be robustly re-funded when Congressreauthorizes them this year.

Urge your Members of Congress to supportincreased funding for child nutrition programs by sending an e-mailthrough the RAC’s Chai impact action center, or host a Child Nutrition Seder to raise awareness about childhood hunger in America. As we say each year in the Seder, “Let all who are hungry come and eat!”

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