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The Weekly Food Research and Action Center News Digest highlights what's new on hunger, nutrition and poverty issues at FRAC, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, around the network of national, state and local anti-poverty and anti-hunger organizations, and in the media. The Digest will alert you to trends, reports, news items and resources and, when available, link you directly to them.


Issue #26, August 26, 2014

  1. Community Eligibility Provision Helps New York Increase School Meal Participation
  2. LTE: Kansas School District Should Participate in Community Eligibility Provision
  3. Delaware Ranks Eighth in Summer Meal Participation, Still Not Reaching All Eligible Children
  4. Georgia County Free and Reduced-Price Meal Eligibility Equals State’s
  5. CDC Finds Children Not Eating Enough Vegetables
  6. New York City’s Hunger Crisis Grows After 2013 SNAP Cut
  7. Study Shows Suburban Poverty Increase in U.S.
  8. Child Poverty Increases in Michigan’s Most Affluent Counties
  9. Congress Leaves for Recess Without Moving on Unemployment Extension
  10. Face of Poverty is More Diverse Now, Says Washington Post Photographer
  11. For America’s Poorest, Assistance is Lacking

1. Community Eligibility Provision Helps New York Increase School Meal Participation
(PostStar.com, August 1, 2014)

“Since New York adopted Community Eligibility in our schools, more children are participating in school lunch and breakfast,” said Linda Bopp, executive director of Hunger Solutions New York. In the state, 17 percent of households with children lack access to adequate food, noted Bopp. New York was one of 11 states participating in the Community Eligibility Provision roll-out during the 2012-2013 school year, and 326 schools with high percentages of low-income children provided free school breakfast and lunch to all students through the provision. The number of schools increased to 416 in the past school year, and in the upcoming school year all qualifying schools can participate. Schools have until the end of August to apply to offer free meals to all students through the provision.


2. LTE: Kansas School District Should Participate in Community Eligibility Provision
(The Wichita Eagle, August 8, 2014)

“As the Aug. 31 deadline approaches for districts and schools to opt in for 2014-15, I urge the Wichita school district to reconsider its decision not to participate” in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), writes Dan Glickman, board chairman of the Food Research and Action Center, in this letter to the editor. CEP not only makes free breakfast and lunch available to all students in Kansas schools with high concentrations of eligible students, it removes red tape and other administrative and financial barriers to participation in school meal programs, allowing schools to focus on learning instead of collecting school meal applications. In 4,000 schools in 11 pilot states last year, CEP was proven a success. Glickman’s experience, as representative of Kansas’ 4th Congressional District, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and work for anti-hunger and healthy eating groups, underscores his understanding that healthy children cannot learn. In Kansas, the need for CEP is there, as one-fifth of the state’s children live in families struggling with hunger. “Improved access to federally funded school lunches and breakfasts is an effective response to ensure that every child can succeed in school, at little or no cost to Kansas taxpayers,” writes Glickman.


3. Delaware Ranks Eighth in Summer Meal Participation, Still Not Reaching All Eligible Children
(USDA Blog, August 6, 2014)

The Food Research and Action Center reported this year that Delaware ranked eighth among states and D.C. in 2013 for summer meal participation, reaching more than 21 percent of children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. “Though Delaware provided more than 850,000 meals last year, there are so many more children in need that can be reached,” writes Patricia Dombroski, USDA/FNS Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator, in this blog post. Dombroski recently visited the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford, a summer meals site, one of 287 sites across the state, a 35 percent increase in number over the previous summer. “So, we are optimistic that even more children will receive these essential meals over the course of the summer.” She notes that “[p]oor nutrition during the summer impacts children’s academic performance during the school year.” Dombroski concludes by congratulating the Delaware Department of Education, Community Nutrition Programs, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware and community members for their support of the summer meals program.


4. Georgia County Free and Reduced-Price Meal Eligibility Equals State’s
(Daily Tribune, August 6, 2014)

More than half – 61 percent – of public school students in Georgia’s Bartow County are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. More than 8,500 of the county’s children received these meals out of the total school population of 13,936. The county’s percentage mirrors the state percentage of children – 62 percent - receiving free or reduced-price school meals. “It’s important to provide our students with healthy, nutritious meals to help improve their chances of success and increase their learning opportunities,” said Nancy Rice, school nutrition director. “Research indicates that eating habits affect learning. We want to ensure all our children are well nourished and ready to learn.”


5. CDC Finds Children Not Eating Enough Vegetables
(CDC Vital Signs, August 2014)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children did not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables from 2007 to 2010. While the amount of fruit children age 2-18 consumed increased 67 percent from 2003 to 2010, and the amount of fruit juice children consumed decreased by nearly one-third during the same time period, nine out of ten children still did not eat enough vegetables. Also, a third of vegetables children ate from 2009-2010 were white potatoes, 63 percent of which were consumed fried (as in French fries or chips). Child care, schools and school districts can help increase the amount of fruits and vegetables children eat by:

  • Meeting or exceeding federal meal and snack nutrition standards.
  • Serving fruits and vegetables whenever food is served.
  • Training staff to improve the appeal and accessibility of fruits and vegetables.
  • Involving children in growing, tasting and preparing fruits and vegetables.

6. New York City’s Hunger Crisis Grows After 2013 SNAP Cut
(Voice of America, August 4, 2014)

The cut in SNAP benefits at the end of 2013 created a significant increase in New York City residents struggling with hunger, according to Camesha Grant, director of member services for the Food Bank for New York City. “One in five are children, and one in six are seniors,” said Grant. “We see people who have jobs, who are working every day but really struggling to make ends meet.” The discussion of the gap between rich and poor is misleading, said the Food Bank’s CEO Margaret Purvis. “What we’re seeing more and more in the world of poverty is that it’s not a gap. It’s more like a canyon, and the distance between those who have and those who did not is really quite devastating.” Nearly twenty percent of city residents are “food insecure,” according to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.


7. Study Shows Suburban Poverty Increase in U.S.
(TIME, July 31, 2014)

According to a recent report from the Brookings Institution, the suburbs surrounding Colorado Springs had no Census tracts with 20 percent or more residents in poverty in 2000. Now the area has seven Census tracts in poverty, with 35 percent of residents below the poverty line, defined as a family of four in 2012 making $23,492 or less. “We’ve seen this all over the state,” said Kathy Underhill of Hunger Free Colorado. “But I think the American public has been slow to realize this transition from urban poverty to suburban poverty.” In the past 14 years, the number of poor people living in the suburbs increased by 65 percent, twice the growth of poor people in urban areas. Low-income people living in gentrifying cities have been pushed into the suburbs where there’s more affordable housing. While poverty has become more regional in scope, noted report co-author Elizabeth Kneebone, “…at the same time, it’s more concentrated and it’s erased a lot of the progress that we made in the 1990s.”  Kneebone said that low-income people in these impoverished areas carry a “double burden,” since the areas often have failing schools, inadequate healthcare systems, higher crime rates, and lack the safety nets found in urban areas. “The charitable infrastructure over the decades have focused on the inner city,” said Underhill. “They’ve traditionally not had big case loads and aren’t accustomed to the level of service that’s needed.”


8. Child Poverty Increases in Michigan’s Most Affluent Counties
(Bridge Magazine, August 5, 2014)

Michigan’s most affluent counties saw significant increases in child poverty between 2005 and 2011, and poverty is spreading through the state’s cities, suburbs, small towns and rural areas. Livingston County, the state’s most affluent, has at 6.3 percent the lowest poverty level in the state, according to a Census Bureau 2013 estimate – which means that nearly 12,000 of the county’s 184,000 residents live in poverty. Assistance requests for food, rent, and heating are at record levels, and the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency is struggling to provide help. “We could have served a lot more if we had the resources,” said the agency’s chief executive, Ron Borngesser. “The money doesn’t go far enough. We were at capacity, no question about it.” The jobs lost during the recent recession haven’t come back, said Borngesser. After previous recessions, job levels bounced back. This time, the jobs opening up are part-time and pay lower wages, and Borngesser believes the county’s actual poverty rate could be higher than 6.3 percent. Many of those struggling in Livingston County made decent salaries before struggling with poverty, and those around them are living in middle-class comfort. For Tammy Shire, who was making $64,000 a year, the stress of poverty has been rough. “It was devastating,” she said, “absolutely devastating. Until I started to research the true meaning of poverty, I didn’t realize I was in it.”


9. Congress Leaves for Recess Without Moving on Unemployment Extension
(Huffington Post, July 31, 2014)

“Every week since Republicans blocked an extension of the program in December, an average of 72,000 more Americans are cut off unemployment insurance prematurely,” writes Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI) in this op-ed. The number of people unemployed for more than six months stays near record levels, notes Rep. Levin, although the economy has been recovering. A majority of Americans favor the extension, and Democrats agreed to offset the cost, a condition Republicans called for although they passed more than $700 billion in tax cuts, mostly for big corporations, without offsets. “Never before has Congress allowed an emergency unemployment insurance program to expire with the rate of long-term unemployed as high as it is today,” writes Rep. Levin. “We urge House Republicans to end their resistance to an extension,” he concludes.


10. Face of Poverty is More Diverse Now, Says Washington Post Photographer
(The Washington Post, August 7, 2014)

Washington Post photographer Michael Williamson, who won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for his photographs documenting the struggles of SNAP recipients, has photographed poverty throughout his career. He notes that the faces he sees now in poverty are more diverse than those in the 1980’s. The images he has from then show long lines of people getting food, or waiting for a job, “[a]nd they were almost all middle class, blue collar, regular Midwest type folks.” For the SNAP story, he saw a “cross section of America…[n]ew immigrants, old immigrants, college students, retired people, handicapped, mentally ill, substance abuse, people [who had been in] jail, middle managers, people who’d had a job for 30 years.” These are people, said Williamson, who pursued the American Dream, worked hard, did everything right, “and yet they’re not going to get a piece of the action beyond barely surviving.” It’s important that the case has been made that people on SNAP are not the stereotype. His Post photo series showed the typical SNAP recipient is Caucasian, someone who works. “It’s a 6-year-old Caucasian boy who lives in Tennessee.” As a child, he was on SNAP, and said that he would have stolen food if he was hungry enough. But through SNAP he didn’t have to steal. “And I became an educated, hard-working citizen who has paid back this government all the money that came our way hundreds of times over. So my feeling is, the government invested in me. And they’ve gotten a darn good return on their money.”



(The Washington Post, August 7, 2014)

According to Robert Moffitt, an economist at Johns Hopkins University, assistance in the U.S. comes mainly in the form of tax exemptions like the earned income tax credit and family tax credit, and people who don’t work aren’t eligible for these programs. Traditional welfare, now known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children, has decreased to almost nothing. Benefits have been flowing to people who are married, employed, elderly or disabled. In 2004, single parents earning less than half the federal poverty line received 35 percent less in assistance than in 1983. However, the total amount of government spending on public benefits has risen since the 1960s.
11. For America’s Poorest, Assistance is Lacking

 

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