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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 #38, November 25, 2014

Breakfast in the Classroom

  • Innovative Breakfast in the Classroom Program to Expand in 2015 Providing Thousands of More Students Across the Nation with a Healthy Morning Meal

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

  • In Wake of SNAP Cuts, Food Pantries Struggling to Serve Increased Need
  • SNAP is Vital Program for Struggling U.S. Veterans
  • Hunger Free Vermont Hosts SNAP Challenge

School Breakfast Program

  • Texas School Positions Breakfast Cart Near Student Gathering Place, Increases Breakfast Participation
  • Breakfast After the Bell Expands in Colorado Schools

Summer and Afterschool Meals

  • Pasadena, California to Receive Grant to Improve and Expand Summer and Afterschool Meals

Research

  • Study Finds School Lunches Can Be Healthier than Lunches from Home
  • Study Finds Millions in Texas Choosing Between Food and Other Basics
  • Economies Don’t Bounce Back Quickly from Major Recessions

Breakfast in the Classroom

Innovative Breakfast in the Classroom Program to Expand in 2015 Providing Thousands of More Students Across the Nation with a Healthy Morning Meal
(Atlanta Business Chronicle, November 19, 2014)
For the third year in a row, Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom is expanding efforts to help combat the continual fight against childhood hunger and improve participation in the federally-funded School Breakfast Program. The Breakfast in the Classroom program reworks how school breakfast is served, by offering it at no cost to all students and moving it from the cafeteria to the classroom to improve participation in the federally-funded program. While most U.S. schools participate in the federally-funded School Breakfast Program, only half of low-income children who are eligible for a free or reduced-price breakfast through the federal School Breakfast Program are eating it, according to a 2013 Food Research and Action Center analysis. “As the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom continue efforts for the third year, the history of success is encouraging and underscores the role food plays in helping our children grow into healthy and well-educated young adults,” said Princess Moss, Secretary-Treasurer at the National Education Association, speaking on behalf of the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom.
Related articles:
Kansas Chosen For Free School Breakfast Grants (KCUR, November 20, 2014)
Grants could bring daily free breakfast to many Alabama classrooms (Al.com, November 20, 2014)
Indiana schools eligible for Breakfast in Classroom (Rushville Republican, November 21, 2014)


Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

In Wake of SNAP Cuts, Food Pantries Struggling to Serve Increased Need
(Crain’s New York Business, November 17, 2014)
In November 2013, as $5 billion in SNAP cuts across the country took effect, 48 percent of New York City’s food banks and food pantries reported running out of food; that number climbed to 60 percent of the city’s food banks and food pantries in September 2014, according to a survey by the Food Bank for New York City. Margarette Purvis, president and CEO of the Food Bank, was shocked at the high percentage “when we have been killing ourselves to get more out there.” Public outcry and press coverage of the SNAP cuts last year motivated people to donate to emergency food providers late last year, said food pantry executives. “We’re not the story anymore,” said Rev. Melony Samuels, executive director of the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger. New York Common Pantry on the Upper East Side surveyed their clients and found that 82 percent reported cuts in their SNAP benefits last year, 41 percent were visiting food pantries and other providers for help, and 16 percent said they were skipping meals.
Related articles:
Area food pantries well short of Thanksgiving demand (Channel 3000, November 21, 2014)
Lawrence food pantries running out of supplies (Boston Globe, November 23, 2014)
Hunger in Rhode Island: Demand straining food banks (Providence Journal, November 23, 2014)
Lehigh Valley, New Jersey food pantries continue to struggle following food stamp reductions (Lehigh Valley Live, November 23, 2014)
Fighting hunger in Central Jersey meal by meal (mycentraljersey.com, November 22, 2014)
Hunger lingers despite recovering economy (State Journal-Register, November 22, 2014)

SNAP is Vital Program for Struggling U.S. Veterans
(Watertown Daily Times, November 13, 2014)
“For many veterans and military families, SNAP works well to lessen the burden of being unable to afford enough food,” writes Linda Bopp, executive director of Hunger Solutions New York, in this letter to the editor. Veterans Day is a day to honor and recognize “those who volunteered to serve our country,” writes Bopp. But “we need to demonstrate our gratitude” and “cannot allow thousands of New York’s active service members and veterans [to] battle food insecurity.” SNAP outreach through Hunger Solutions New York’s Nutrition Outreach and Education Program Veterans’ and Military Families’ Initiative has connected more than 7,060 veterans and families to nutrition assistance.  Nationwide last year, more than $100 million in SNAP benefits helped veterans and families purchase food in commissaries.

Hunger Free Vermont Hosts SNAP Challenge
(Shelburne News, November 12, 2014)
During National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (November 16-22, 2014), Hunger Free Vermont hosted its 5th Annual 3SquaresVT Challenge. 3SquaresVT is the state’s name for the SNAP Program, and challenge participants were encouraged to eat for a week on $36 – $1.72 per meal – the average amount a SNAP participant in the state would receive. The event is designed to raise awareness of the struggles involved in sticking to a strict food budget and how that changes daily life, both physically and psychologically. One in seven residents – 87,000 Vermonters – receive SNAP benefits, and many more are eligible but not participating in the program.


School Breakfast Program

Texas School Positions Breakfast Cart Near Student Gathering Place, Increases Breakfast Participation
(Mesquite Online News, November 17, 2014)
“Our school cafeteria is not close to the most popular place students like to congregate – the library,” said Kevin Samples, principal of Mesquite High School in Texas. “So we’ve added a breakfast kiosk nearby.” According to FRAC, a healthy breakfast can help improve academic performance, and the kiosk’s goal is to get more students to eat school breakfast. The kiosk has helped boost breakfast participation – an average of 250 students participated in breakfast before the kiosk opened on October 28; the average number of breakfasts now served is about 355, according to Lark Stewart, a dietician in Mesquite ISD’s food and nutrition department. Mesquite High School is the first in the district offering a breakfast kiosk, and Samples said kiosks may be added to more schools. School breakfast improves student concentration, alertness, comprehension, memory and learning, according to FRAC. Students participating in school breakfast also show improved cognitive function, attention and memory.

Breakfast After the Bell Expands in Colorado Schools
(Denver Post, November 16, 2014)
In 2013, the Colorado House passed a bill requiring that schools with 80 percent or higher free and reduced-price school lunch participation offer Breakfast After the Bell in the 2014-15 school year. Some schools are providing breakfast in the classroom, while high schools are providing the meal from carts. Breakfast in the classroom has met all its goals and gone beyond erasing stigma, said Khoa Nguyen, principal of Denver Public School Ellis Elementary. In the 2015-16 school year, the legislation requires Breakfast After the Bell be implemented in all schools with 70 percent or higher free and reduced-price school lunch participation.


Summer and Afterschool Meals

Pasadena, California to Receive Grant to Improve and Expand Summer and Afterschool Meals
(Pasadena News Now, November 17, 2014)
A CHAMPS grant of $50,000 from the National League of Cities (NLC), made possible by the Walmart Foundation in partnership with the Food Research and Action Center, will help Pasadena, California’s Human Services and Recreation Department administer afterschool and summer meal programs; along with the grant, the Department will receive technical assistance and access to national experts and best practices. The Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) will help, through the grant, as the city develops a coordinated system for providing child nutrition programs, increase school breakfast participation, and increase child nutrition program awareness across the city. More than half – 68 percent – of PUSD students were approved in the 2013-14 school year for free or reduced-price school meals. In the past 2.5 years, CHAMPS grants have helped supply 7.5 million meals.


Research

Study Finds School Lunches Can Be Healthier than Lunches from Home
(The New York Times, November 18, 2014)
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior compared school lunches to lunches students brought from home at three Virginia schools over a five-day period. The paper reports that:

  • 61 percent of school lunches contained a vegetable other than juice, compared to 17 percent of packed lunches.
  • Five percent of school lunches included chips or crackers, compared to 57 percent of packed lunches.
  • School lunches didn’t include dessert, compared to 61 percent of packed lunches, with 17 percent including more than one dessert.
  • School lunches contained less saturated fat and sugar, more protein, fiber, vitamin A and calcium.

“Schools can use this as a marketing strategy,” said Alisha R. Farris, the report’s lead author. New nutrition guidelines have made school lunches much healthier. “I really feel like schools should take advantage of that and market that.”

Study Finds Millions in Texas Choosing Between Food and Other Basics
(Burnt Orange Report, November 7, 2014)
Millions of Texans receiving food assistance report that they had to choose, within the past year, between paying for food or paying for medical care, utilities, or other basic needs. More than half  (69 percent) in the study said they ate food past its expiration date, sold personal property to afford food, and watered down food and drinks. The report “reaffirms what we’ve already seen about Texas: it is one of the states hardest hit by food insecurity in the nation,” notes this editorial. “One in six Texas households are at risk of hunger, but [it] hasn’t been a priority for our state’s policymakers – every Texas Republican in Congress voted against extending food stamp benefits last fall.” The study, Hunger in America 2014 (coordinated by Feeding America), also found that 3.5 million Texans receive food from a food bank or partner agency annually, and a Texas resident receives food assistance on average seven times per year.

Economies Don’t Bounce Back Quickly from Major Recessions
(CBS News, November 18, 2014)
Recent research* examining the experience of 23 countries since 1970 found that economic output does not return to normal after a major recession, and forecasters ratcheted down their measures of the speed at which economies bounced back, although they were expecting growth to equal levels before recessions. The prevailing view, however, is that while recovery from a recession may be slow, consumers and businesses eventually start spending again, and financial markets wake up and help growth return to normal. The new research could indicate that some long-term unemployed may never go back to work. To spur faster growth, government policies may have to do more, for example modernizing the country’s infrastructure, in order to avoid permanent effects from the recent recession.
*By economists Robert F. Martin, Teyanna Munyan and Beth Anne Wilson of the Federal Reserve.


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