Written by Caitlin Duncan, Grants Management Specialist
Making a show of throwing away a child’s hot lunch.
Making lunch contingent on performing chores in front of peers.
Sending certain children to a designated area for a cold food item.
Writing debt notices on a child’s arm.
Those examples are just some of the lunch shaming tactics that schools have used to pressure parents to repay school meal debt. The premise is that embarrassment will motivate families to pay the money back quickly. While respecting the need of school districts to recoup a sometimes staggering meal debt, we are against such practices as degrading, which can lead to a negative educational environment for children. Not having enough to eat as a child is already a discouraging struggle. Children who deal with chronic hunger should not also have to worry about public shaming when they have an overdue lunch bill.
Our vision is to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry, and in this pursuit, we believe in treating each child and family in the communities we serve with value and respect. Last summer, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees school lunch programs, imposed a July 1, 2017 deadline for states to establish policies on how to treat children who cannot pay for food. We applaud the state of New Mexico for being the first state to outlaw lunch shaming, passing the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act. The law requires schools to deal with parents–not children–regarding meal debt, ends practices meant to embarrass students, instructs schools to provide students with a USDA reimbursable meal regardless of debt, and outlines steps for schools to connect low-income families with available school lunch programs. We enthusiastically encourage state legislators across the country to follow suit and to develop similar policies that defend children’s dignity and promote students’ access to food at school.
To encourage positive changes to your state’s school lunch debt policy, find contact information for your locally elected officials here.
For ideas on what to share with your elected official, refer to the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) advocacy toolkit here.
Written by Rhonda Watson, Director of Workplace Giving
When I was a student, I remember sitting in the front of the class, eager and ready to learn. At the beginning of every school year, I was armed with my No. 2 pencils, pens, and wide-ruled paper.
As a child, I never thought about other kids not having access to the materials needed for class. How can a student be properly engaged without a pen, pencil or paper? Will they be able to participate in the lessons, or will they just daydream? Would they daydream about a prosperous future that’s not achievable without a good education? Would they dream about never being bullied again for being “different” than the other kids who have school supplies?
If you’re hungry, homeless or without life’s essentials, your dreams may be different. I want kids to dream big, and with an education, they can create a path for success. If they have the right tools to succeed in the classroom, their good grades and participation can open the door to infinite possibilities.
In December 2016, the Hunger and Homelessness Survey stated Washington D.C. has 124 homeless people for every 10,000 residents. Nationwide, the rate of homelessness is about 17 per 10,000 people.
When it comes to school-aged children, there are about 3,551 homeless students in Washington D.C. alone. How can we empower the students in our community? How can we give them the materials they need for success? They are the next generation and they deserve the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and to excel.
Can you join our dream? Feed the Children would like your help to make sure all children in the Washington D.C. area have a backpack to achieve their dreams. Our backpacks are filled with school supplies, hygiene items and healthy snacks – all for the cost of only $20.
On June 8, we will participate in United Way’s campaign called Do More 24. It’s a 24-hour online fundraiser to help the 1,500 homeless kids in DC. Please join us by logging on to make an investment in the life of a child.
In case you missed it, Melinda R. Newport, MS, RD/LD, the Director of WIC and Child Nutrition Programs for the Chickasaw Nation, delivered testimony before the House Agriculture Committee Nov. 16, 2016 on the importance of the SNAP program and reported on the outcome of the Packed Promise project.
Funded by a USDA grant (Demonstration Projects to End Childhood Hunger), Packed Promise allows participants to shop online for food benefits that are shipped directly to them. Participants receive a 25-pound box of shelf stable food and a $15 FRESH check to purchase fresh produce from WIC retailers and farmers markets.
Newport noted the importance of the close partnership between the Chickasaw Nation and Feed the Children in carrying out the project. Feed the Children’s experience in bulk food ordering, packaging, and delivery was leveraged to establish a viable food access point for children across rural Oklahoma. Also, its logistics expertise and food buying power allow more children to be served for less money spent.
As of November 2016, Packed Promise had shipped 793,000 pounds of food to families in need and had redeemed $261,000 in FRESH checks – all to help vulnerable Oklahoma families. Read Newport’s full testimony here.
While most Americans were paying attention to politics, sports, or pop culture in 2016, they may have missed these major events that impacted the poor and hungry around the world and here in the United States:
1. Passage of the Global Food Security Act (GFSA) – The legislation, which enjoyed broad bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, allocates over $7 billion to initiatives focusing on small-scale agricultural producers and the nutrition of women and children worldwide. When he signed the legislation in July, President Obama noted that development spending is “one of the smartest investments we can make” for U.S. national security and shared prosperity. FEED supports the GFSA, and its passage was a major victory.
2. Collapse of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) – Not all hunger news in 2016 was good news. Hopes were high that the House and Senate could reconcile their respective versions of the CNR to replace the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which expired over a year ago. Although the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a bipartisan CNR, Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) said he was unable to find common ground with House colleagues and minority members of the Senate to advance the bill. A major stumbling block was a provision in the House bill that would have created a block-grant pilot program in three states. The program would cut funds for school meal programs and abolish critical federal mandates, such as eligibility requirements for free and reduced-price school lunches and nutrition standards. FEED strongly opposed these elements of the House bill.
3. Passage of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act – This long-sought piece of legislation was first introduced over five years ago, but was finally signed by President Obama in July. It requires government agencies to closely monitor and evaluate foreign-aid programs based on their outcomes, and to improve transparency by posting data about the effectiveness of programs on foreignassistance.gov. Its unanimous approval in both the House and Senate is credited to a committed group of bipartisan sponsors.
4. Hurricane Matthew and cholera outbreak in Haiti – Hurricane Matthew devastated Haiti in October. Recovery efforts have been hampered by poor infrastructure that predated the hurricane, and by an ongoing cholera epidemic for which the UN has taken partial responsibility. The cholera epidemic, which was triggered after the catastrophic 7.0 earthquake in 2010, has been further exacerbated by the poor conditions following Hurricane Matthew.
5. Endemic measles is eradicated from the Americas – The World Health Organization declared in September that no one had been infected with measles in the Americas for a full year, meaning the virus is no longer endemic in North and South America. Despite a measles outbreak last year that spread to 667 people in 27 U.S. states, the western hemisphere has not suffered an endemic case of measles since 2002.
6. War and refugees – Unfortunately, 2016 saw the continuation of violent conflicts that drove masses of refugees from Syria and Yemen. The U.S. reached its goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees in the 2016 fiscal year, and has now accepted over 12,000 Syrian refugees since the civil war began in 2011. Meanwhile, the ongoing conflict in Yemen (between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led coalition supporting the ousted government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi) has driven the largest food-security emergency in the world. Between 7 and 10 million people are in “Crisis” (IPC Phase 3 or worse), and require immediate humanitarian assistance. At least 2 million of this total are in “Emergency” (IPC Phase 4), and are at increased risk of mortality. FEED is part of a group of 18 concerned nongovernmental organizations providing food and supplies to 12,000 Syrian refugees, two-thirds of whom are women and children.
7. El Niño drives food insecurity in Southern Africa – The strongest El Niño weather event since 1982 caused an increase in drought and heat waves across much of the world, but especially in southern Africa. Over 50 million Africans are now considered food insecure. Pervasive drought conditions have devastated the agriculture sector, which employs 80 percent of the working population in Malawi. FEED delivers food aid to over 80,000 Malawian children in 847 centers each day, provides water-purification packages, awards scholarships to help students finish high school, and organizes village savings and loan programs to help impoverished rural communities save and invest in small businesses.
8. Ebola outbreak ends – The World Health Organization declared the epidemic over in June 2016, representing a major victory for public health officials and the NGO community. FEED and its partners in Liberia and Kenya created networks of trained Care Group Volunteers to teach public health practices, including hand washing with soap, water purification, and avoiding sick or dead animals. The volunteers also assisted communities in recognizing symptoms of the virus, and dispelling false beliefs about how the virus spreads. See here.
9. The rise and fall of Zika – Zika was declared a global health emergency in February, which precipitated massive global action against the disease: 1) the World Bank committed $150 million to combat the virus; 2) the Bank also established the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility to quickly mobilize funds to address global disease outbreaks; 3) the Obama Administration issued a “private sector call to action” to unlock vaccines, point-of- care diagnostics, and new mosquito-control options; and 4) a coalition of governments and philanthropies, most notably the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, committed $18 million to widely implement a new form of vector control. Following such efforts, the crisis was declared over in November.
10. Number of food-insecure households in the U.S. is decreasing – The USDA’s Economic Research Service issued its most recent “Household Food Security in the United States” report in September. The report found that as of 2015 there were 15.8 million food-insecure households in the U.S.—12.7% of all households. While an improvement from the 14% of food-insecure families in 2014, there are still many households that are unable to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. Meanwhile, the number of people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as spending on the program, has been significantly reduced because of the reintroduction of certain restrictions for childless adults, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
Tuesday, June 23, is National Call-In Day, a day set aside for people to call their congressional representatives and ask them to support federal school meal and child- nutrition programs. Hunger organizations across the country are working together to make this call-in day a success. Here’s why this initiative is so important to our work:
Prior to my work at Feed the Children, I served as a youth pastor for over 8 years and since 2010, I have led Feed the Children’s disaster-relief work. Two years ago, I was assigned to lead a new program at Feed the Children—the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provides summer meals to food-insecure children. These children normally receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year, but over the summer, many of them are left without access to regular meals. I am proud to lead a team that now sponsors 58 sites where we serve 1,800 – 2,000 meals a day to children during the summer.
Summer meals sites are frequently held at libraries, camps, churches, or schools. While kids receive a meal at a site, they can also stay active and continue learning with the books, school supplies, backpacks, and sports supplies that Feed the Children provides. On kick-off day, I saw hundreds of enthusiastic kids at these sites. SFSP gives them the opportunity to eat a nutritious meal and stay on track during the summer so that they don’t fall behind when they return to school.
SFSP is just one of the ways Feed the Children combats hunger. Our distribution centers provide millions of pounds of food to individuals in all 50 states every year. We have also distributed over 700,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to students. While I love all of the great programs at Feed the Children, our summer program is special to me—not only because I work on it every day, but also because I see the impact of the meals and the mentoring that our sites provide children. This program brings together many stakeholders to improve the lives of some of our nation’s most vulnerable kids.
This type of development effort creates pathways for people to overcome their hardships. Through the support of the community and mentors, hopefully these kids will have brighter futures.
SFSP only works through the combined efforts of the public and private sphere. Nonprofits can create effective programs to reach the people in need, but the scale of the problem is so large that funding is often a challenge. Federal resources flowing through faith and community institutions lead to more kids being fed and mentored every day. By investing in our children and those in need, we can become a healthier and more productive nation.
While we have made great strides to improve children’s access to meals, we continue to face challenges. Because Oklahoma is largely a rural state, many students do not have transportation to the meal sites. The mandatory congregate rule requires that children eat the meal together in a certain location. In urban settings, I have witnessed parents instructing their children not to come out of their homes or apartment complexes to participate due to safety concerns, and therefore the congregate feeding rule prevents some children from having access to summer meals. Changing the requirement would help programs across the country reach more kids.
While we would hope that this issue would be nonpartisan, the political climate has made the discussion around feeding children politically charged. If Congress could find a way to work together, we could improve these programs to reach more children.
All of us at Feed the Children are working hard to change the tide of poverty and hunger in America. We especially care about making sure every child in America is adequately fed. We urge you to join us in showing support for important programs such as SFSP by calling your representative on June 23. It only takes a few minutes, and we give you a suggested message to use. Your congressional representatives need to hear from you! Here’s how to participate.
Today in Washington D.C., Feed the Children asked Congress to support multi-sector collaboration. Jonathan Webb, Director, Foundation Partnerships at Feed the Children, testified at a public hearing beginning at 10 a.m. at the Longworth House Office Building. His testimony, “The Role of Nonprofits in Addressing Hunger,” was delivered to the Full Committee on Agriculture as they discussed, “The Past, Present and Future of SNAP: The World of Nutrition and the Role of the Charitable Sector.” The complete line-up of speakers is here.
Here we offer a summary of his remarks to Congress to keep you informed of Feed the Children’s progress in furthering public-private partnerships to support efforts in identifying, creating and scaling up newer and more effective strategies for ending hunger.
The testimony and recommendations were written by members of our Program Impact Department and Government Relations Department, with input from other Feed the Children staff and are available in their entirety here.
Today I’m in Washington D.C., offering a “call-to-action” testimony asking Congress to change how our country addresses childhood hunger.
As we know, the public sector can’t do it alone—and the nonprofit community can’t do it alone. Public-private partnerships are the true key to decreasing the number of individuals currently relying on the hunger safety net provided by the federal government. We know the current safety net is not enough to end hunger in the US, so we are promoting solutions to ensure that fewer Americans will need that safety net.
We are offering three recommendations to Congress that will foster innovation, collaboration and improved measurement of results and impact in order to decrease the need for the federal safety net, improve food security and nutrition, and make the safety net more cost-effective.
First, we are recommending that Congress establish a Food Security and Nutrition Social Innovation Fund. This fund could be created from the USDA’s existing resources to foster a stronger network of anti-hunger partners and promote the multi-sector collaboration necessary to yield smart, innovative solutions to hunger.
Such a fund will allow us to break down the walls that often exist between various sectors– community leaders, nonprofits, academics and governments—and have prevented us from looking at the big-picture issues that define hunger. Leveraging the skill sets from these constituencies will help us collaborate on creative solutions that go deeper than simply increasing access to direct service. This $370 million fund would help support a formal “community of practice” and innovation grants to help scale-up the most cost-effective program models that can help defeat hunger.
Second, we’re requesting better access to federally funded demonstration projects. Currently, nonprofits are severely limited in how we combine efforts with the federal government, especially with the difficulty in leveraging USDA grants.
Feed the Children is recommending that Congress encourage nonprofits to bid collaboratively for demonstration projects that test new and effective approaches to improving food security and nutrition programs, as well as administering federal nutrition programs. In order to further encourage program innovation among nonprofit organizations, Congress should dedicate increased funding to targeted demonstration projects, and take actions that will permit necessary flexibility in federal nutrition programs.
And third, we recommend federal grant applications from Congress require measurement of results and impact of programs, using standardized food security and nutrition indicators that will help to assess which programs are having the best results. The federal government—in collaboration with its partners—needs to study, measure and replicate success.
We look forward to the results and next steps that emerge from today’s testimony and Feed the Children’s recommendations.
Feed the Children staff pictured in the image above: Kim Baich, Kevin Hagan, Tom Davis, Jonathan Webb, Trevor Moe, and Jayme Cloninger
Last weekend, Feed the Children participated in its first Rock N’ Roll Marathon in New Orleans. Our goals were simple: raise awareness and funds to defeat hunger and have fun doing it! 400 families in the Central City section received food and essential products for the week. Thomas Morstead of the New Orleans Saints served as our team captain.
We hope this event was just the start of future pursuits for #TeamFeedtheChildren. Heather Montgomery, a blogger shared her experience being a part of the weekend and we knew you’d be inspired by it. Here’s her story:
This past weekend, not only did I get to run my first post baby half marathon, but I got to meet up with fellow runners and bloggers, and do some good for the city of New Orleans. For those that don’t know, I was born right outside of the city in Metairie, and I grew up about 30 miles away. I still consider it home, as all of my family is still there, so I was excited to give back and help Feed the Children last Saturday. . . . .
Feed the Children was the benefitting charity for this race, which I was happy to hear. We have been supporters of the charity for years, and it was really great to see them in action in the community. On this day, 400 families were going to be given food, toiletry items, haircuts, lunch, and fro yo! We arrived at the Apex youth center and a line had already formed outside.
We arrived just in time to throw on some volunteer t-shirts and catch the end of the volunteer meeting.
Families would go through the inside of the center and then out onto the basketball court where we had boxes of food and such. Whole Foods was there giving away fruit, and we manned the milk station.
There was a DJ, a lot of amazing volunteers, and…..
THOMAS MORSTEAD! He is the punter for the New Orleans Saints….and if you know ANYTHING about me, you know I love Saints football. Heck, I stalked Malcolm Jenkins in the New Orleans airport last year so I could get a picture. Thomas does a TON for the city of New Orleans. He is always in the news helping different charities, and it was so great to meet him. He actually took the time to talk to me which was super nice. He and his wife were running the 10k the next day, and he told me he wasn’t in running shape so he hoped a lot of people stopped him along the way so he could get a break! The coolest thing was not once did he “act famous”. He graciously took photos when asked, but I constantly saw him working, carrying boxes, and helping people…and it was awesome.
After my total geek out moment, it was back to work. I moved over to the boxes provided by AVON, helping hand them out to the grateful families.
It was such an amazing experience getting to give back during a race weekend, and see where the charity money goes. Yes I could have been out on the beautiful day that is was exploring the city or enjoying my first baby free weekend with Bobby, but this was way, way more important, and I am so glad that Rock ‘n Roll made it possible for us to take part. We need to never forget while we are enjoying our racecations and running our miles, that there are families out there thankful just for a quart of milk and a free haircut. It really makes you realize how truly blessed we really are, and how great Rock ‘n Roll is for having a charity for their races!
For the more than 16 million children at risk of going hungry in the United States every day, summer break can be a tough time when it comes to finding a meal. With schools closed, kids on free and reduced lunch can’t count on three square meals a day.
While this number is significant, it also means over 12 million kids aren’t eating lunch every day. The severity of the gap is frightening.
We can do better. We want to expand the table this summer to include more children. More tables need to be set. Many more children must be fed.
And, this is what we know: when government agencies, faith based groups and NGOs band together to support summer food service programs, the story changes. More children eat.
We’ve learned from FNS that Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sites almost always organize on a grassroots level. Faith communities hold particular and bring unique value to this process.
Often faith groups host these program sites as part of their summer camps and classes for kids. Lunch is often built into already existing community programming. It’s a win, win for the organization and the children.
And so, to bolster these efforts, Feed the Children needs your help. We’d like to chat with you about how we can encourage more groups, in particular faith groups, to become a part of the Summer Food Service program.
Though it is only January, the time to organize is now. So that in June, more kids can count on three squares.
Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest countries, experienced torrential rains this week, resulting in rampant flooding due to late summer storms. Although this is the region’s rainy season, Malawi has not seen flooding like this since 1964.
These deadly floods submerged villages and destroyed crops and livestock. This disaster is especially devastating because 8 of every 10 Malawians earn a living through agriculture.
An estimated 200,000 people have fled their homes, finding themselves suddenly without access to food or shelter. Already, almost 200 people are reported missing or dead.
Feed the Children currently operates community-based programs in more than 625 communities in Malawi and its team on the ground plans to focus its initial relief efforts in Nsanje, Chikwawa and Salima, three districts designated as priority areas for assistance by Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management. Feed the Children’s efforts in Salima district will benefit from our strong program presence in that area and our ability to mobilize there quickly.
Working in partnership with Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management, we are swiftly responding to this disaster with the help of Nu Skin’s Nourish the Children (NTC) Initiative and Proctor & Gamble. We are distributing tens of thousands of bags of Nu Skin’s VitaMeal to provide meals for the displaced.
I am doing something that I thought I’d never do. On January 23rd, I will be running my first ever marathon!
When I first learned that Feed the Children was the benefiting charity of the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon in New Orleans this month, I made the commitment to run a full marathon on behalf of the children we serve.
I am 46 years old and prior to this experience have never considered myself much of a runner (though I have played other sports).
In fact, it had been several years prior to my current marathon training that I had even put on a pair of running shoes with the intent of running in them. The longest distance I had ever run prior to my commitment was 6 miles and that was a lifetime ago.
Number one question that my friends and family have asked over the last couple of months has been is this difficult? Absolutely!
In order to run 26.2 miles you have to train for months. Marathon training requires a lot of time, dedication and hard work. You have to be prepared to run in all kinds of conditions, the heat, the cold, rain and snow. Adding to the difficulty I experienced a fairly significant groin injury, had cortisone shots in both knees, and had muscle soreness like I have never experienced before, even during all my years of sports.
But, do the hardships that I have faced in my training compare to those faced by the children we serve each and every day?
Absolutely not! I accepted this challenge because I want to do my part to raise awareness on the issues of hunger.
Our vision of “no child going to bed hungry” will not happen on its own.
It will take each and every one of us to take a stand, make a commitment and unite together to defeat hunger.
As a father of four children, I cannot imagine my children having to worry about when or if they will eat again. Every child deserves to experience the awesomeness that goes along with being a kid and should never have to spend one second worrying about their next meal.
The fact that nearly 16 million children in our own country live in a food-insecure household is simply unacceptable to me. New Orleans is no exception with 1 in 6 people facing hunger issues on a daily basis. Yet, I believe the awareness we are bringing to hunger in New Orleans can change this!
What can you do to help Feed the Children realize our vision of no child going to bed hungry? Join Team Feed the Children as we run to end childhood hunger and make our miles meaningful. Join us or donate toward our efforts on our website.
Chris is the Senior Director of Corporate Donor Relations at Feed the Children.