Nearly a year into the pandemic, school closures have taken a harsh toll on American kids. Virtual classes have left many behind academically, and losing access to school meals has increased child hunger across the country, as replacement programs have failed to meet rising need. As children return to the classroom, school breakfasts will be critical in both curbing hunger and improving academic outcomes, according to the Food Research & Action Center’s (FRAC) annual Breakfast Scorecard, which was released today.
Nearly 13.6 million students are now receiving free breakfast and lunch through the community eligibility program, a federal initiative that has previously been targeted for cuts by Republicans, according to a new report. That figure is a 14-percent increase in the past year alone.
Participation in the Women Infants and Children program has plummeted by 25 percent this decade, reaching the point that only 3 of every 5 eligible people apply for the supplemental food and health care referrals offered to low-income pregnant women, new mothers and their offspring up to age 5. In a report issued today, the anti-hunger Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) spelled out dozens of ways for government agencies, grocers, schools and nutrition activists could remove barriers and maximize enrollment.
A new bill, proposed by the vice-chair of the House Agriculture Committee and backed by one of the largest anti-hunger groups in the nation, would raise food stamp benefits by an estimated 30 percent. Rep. Alma Adams, the lead sponsor of the "closing the meal gap" legislation, said on Tuesday that a companion bill would be filed by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a presidential aspirant.
Breakfast participation rates at U.S. schools rose in the 2017-18 school year, and a report issued Wednesday by the Food Research & Action Center attributed that increase to decisions by schools to serve breakfast in classrooms and to offer meals to all pupils free of charge.
Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, a longtime champion of nutrition programs and a farm bill conferee, urged his colleagues not to support the House bill’s language around nutrition programs. “It is vital that we stand strong and that we side with the Senate … with regard to their language in the nutrition title,” he said in an interview on Thursday with the Food Research and Action Center.