School Breakfast Program Gives Kids a Healthy Start to their Days

Written by Andrew McNamee, Manager of Public Policy and Caitlin Duncan, Grants Management Specialist

A day at school should be filled with educational challenges and social growth. But for the roughly eight percent of American children living with food insecurity, the day usually begins with hunger. The hunger stalks them throughout their childhoods. It affects their ability to focus and learn, their prospects, even their physical growth. While their friends return from summer break with stories of family vacations, sports practices, and summer camps, food insecure children have no such stories to tell. Instead, they are relieved to be back where free and reduced-price school lunches help them recover from months of inconsistent meals, as well as sometimes feeling like a burden to their family. This is how poverty and related food insecurity psychologically traumatize children for life, and it’s happening on a massive scale. Their chronic hunger affects their education, their social opportunities and sense of self –- even their physical development.

This is why the USDA’s School Breakfast Program (SBP) is so important. Research has found that providing breakfast to students has a positive effect on their academic achievement- but the benefits extend beyond that. Busy parents can get relief in the early morning when they know there is a nutritious, affordable meal available at school. Kids have the freedom to be kids when their bellies are full and they can think about games and lessons instead of where to get their next meal.

However, not all school districts offer breakfast through SBP. The program reimburses states that offer school breakfast, but participation is optional. Moreover, the number of students eating free or reduced-price school breakfasts is often far below the number of eligible students, especially when breakfast is served before the bell and many students have not yet arrived at school.

State-level efforts are underway to change this. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) has proposed a $2 million investment in the state’s school breakfast programs in his 2017-2018 budget proposal. A bill introduced in the Massachusetts state legislature would require schools that have at least 60% of their students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals, under the federal National School Lunch Program, to offer their students free breakfast. Feed the Children applauds these changes as a step towards achieving a hunger-free childhood for all children.

Some school districts have made efforts to integrate breakfast service into the school day, including ‘School Breakfast Weeks’ that introduce refreshments and socialization into breakfast programs. Or, instead of serving breakfast before school in a separate room, some districts have introduced food carts that serve students in their classrooms and integrate breakfast into the school day. Feed the Children encourages such innovative efforts to make consistent meals the norm.

Not sure how to get school breakfast started at your local schools? For those who would like to initiate school breakfast or expand on existing programs, the USDA provides a toolkit for parents, educators, administrators, and everyday concerned citizens to assist in this goal, called Energize Your Day with School Breakfast. This toolkit offers suggestions for engaging community stakeholders and for taking concrete action toward bringing nutritious, affordable breakfast to more school-aged children.

Encourage Your State Officials to Address School Lunch Shaming

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.

 

Child hunger in America

Tragedy struck on the Fourth of July

Peter hasn’t had much of a childhood. Meeting him and his family broke my heart. Let me share with you what I learned from my time with them.

When he was just 9 years old, a tragedy struck Peter’s family. They went from “doing really well” to struggling to get enough to eat. Not to mention the immense emotional toll on the whole family. (Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those we serve.)

Now, they are trapped in poverty because of this one tragic event:

On July 4, 2012, at a family cookout, Peter told me his dad “was trying to split up a fight.” One of the men involved got in his truck and ran over his dad — twice. Peter’s sister, Rhea, even witnessed the horror — and she was just 11 years old.

“It broke him in half,” explains Peter’s mom, Linda. “He is paralyzed from the waist down.”

Peter’s dad went from working on a farm every day and providing for his family to being confined to a wheelchair, dependent on his family for nearly everything.

Now, this family of four is trying to survive on Linda’s minimum wage income, disability and food stamps. Getting enough to eat is a constant problem — let alone enough nutritious food for two growing teenagers.

“We have to use like beans and taters a lot,” Peter says. “That’s about usually all we got to eat.”

And Peter is having a tough time in school. It’s hard to concentrate in class when he’s hungry. His dream is to join the National Guard so he can “help people.” But he has to get through school first.

“I’m in 7th, supposed to be in 9th,” he says. “I just want it to end.”

Peter and his family are living in poverty — real poverty that many Americans would like to believe doesn’t happen in our country. But it does and it’s heartbreaking to see.

And when the situation is this hard, the kids are very aware of how bad it is.

“We don’t have very much money to be able to get like food and drinks and stuff like that,” Peter shares. “And we have to scrape up the change or wait ‘til my mom gets her paycheck.”

Peter hesitantly admits to me that he has been so hungry that he gets a “big stomachache.” He’s small for his age and looks like he doesn’t get enough nutritious food. Peter also has scoliosis that causes “a lot of pain” at times.

Despite his own challenges, Peter is a very responsible, caring son. He does all he can to help his mom with chores around the house and take care of his dad. Peter worries about him. He says:

“I sleep on the floor because my dad, he’s hurt and in case anything happens, I’ll be right there.”

— Peter

I saw Peter’s bed. It’s a pile of blankets. But he finds the good in it, saying the floor is like a very firm mattress and it helps with his scoliosis pain.

When I asked Peter what he wants most for his family, he told me:

“I wish that we had a little bit more food and a little bit more money. And I wish that my dad could walk again.”

I wish we could help Peter’s dad walk again. But what you and I can do is give them a little more hope for the future by meeting their urgent need for food and other household essentials. Simple items like cereal, canned vegetables, spaghetti and toilet paper can make a big difference for Peter and his family.

You can make a difference for a family trapped in poverty

Please give today to help feed hungry children like Peter and Rhea.

When we gave this family boxes of food and essentials, I’ve never seen the kind of response we got. Peter and Rhea tore into that box of food like it was Christmas morning.

Your gift today can provide food and essentials that will put smiles on the faces of children like these two.

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Donate

You can provide food and essentials for hungry children like Peter and Rhea!

Child Sponsorship: You can change a child’s life!

Shinayida, age 5

When you say YES to a child like 5-year-old Shinayida of Malawi, you can rescue that precious boy or girl from the enemies of childhood — hunger, disease and poverty.

The benefits of being a sponsor

For $34 a month — just over $1 a day — you can provide food and other life essentials to a child in desperate need. As a sponsor:

Your child will receive:

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You’ll receive:

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1. A photo and important information about your sponsored child.
2. The opportunity to communicate with your child through letters that show how much you care.
3. Updates on your child, plus notes and/or drawings from your child.

You can make a difference like Jose’s sponsor

Jose, age 12

José is a 12-year-old in Honduras who has had a sponsor for two years. He says:

“I have been able to continue my studies and I no longer go hungry at school. I am able to eat delicious food.”

And José’s father says, “I am very grateful for all the help you have bestowed on us. We are now able to move forward, we have never had help before but now you help us with food, school supplies, shoes and better nutrition.”

You can give the gift of childhood: Yareling’s story

Yareling, age 8

In 8-year-old Yareling’s Honduras community, 70 percent of the families are trapped in poverty. Yareling’s sponsor has made a big difference in her life for more than two years now. She says:

“I feel happy because Feed the Children has helped so much with the backpack and school supplies, food, shoes and even toys.”

And her mom says: “I feel so grateful with the program because in my particular case I have seen a change in my daughter, she is happier, more active and loves going to class with her school bag and school supplies. I thank you so much for the help you have given me, my daughter and all the children in the community.”

That’s the kind of difference you can make as a sponsor!

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Say YES and change a child’s life!

Step in to make a life-changing difference for a child — just like José and Yareling’s sponsors have done.

For $34 a month, you’ll help rescue a boy or girl from the enemies of childhood: hunger, disease and poverty. Please say YES!

I want to find a child to sponsor!

Hunger in America: One mom’s story

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Everything was going well for Teri and her daughters. As a single mom, it’s not easy, but Teri had a good job and she was able to provide for her family. (Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those we serve.)

Then one morning she went to work, and, along with 1,900 other employees, was hit with the shocking news that the manufacturing plant was being closed.

How would she provide for 9-year-old Jackylee and 6-year-old Braylee?

“Everything became a struggle,” she remembers, tears streaming down her face. “I don’t have no help…and then my mama, she try to help me, too, but she’s struggling too `cause she’s on a fixed income…it’s a struggle, it’s hard.”

I asked Teri if she ever runs out of food.

“Yeah, I run out every month,” she says. “There are times like I got to the point where, like basically, we was all starving.

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“There are times like I got to the point where, like basically, we was all starving.”

— Teri

And other times the family is down to the bare minimum.

“I really don’t be worried about me — I can go without — but like sometimes when they’re having to constantly eat noodles and stuff, it bothers me, they don’t so much complain, but it bothers me,” Teri says.

She tries to not let her girls see how hard this is for her, but they notice. Jakylee told her, “It’s okay mama. We know you do everything you can for us.”

Those simple words touched her heart: “It kind of broke me up.”

Like most parents, Teri has a strong sense of responsibility. In tears, she says, “I’m use to being able to give them whatever they want and I don’t like to have to ask people for help.”

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And like most parents, she wants to protect her children from getting hurt. But one of her girls shared this:

“…about a week ago, she was telling me that some kid asked her, ‘Is that the only pair of shoes you got `cause you wear them every day?’ Like that did something to me — it made me mad that this kid did that, and then it hurt me too, `cause I’m like, what can I do `cause I don’t want my kids getting picked at because I fall short.”

Everything is a struggle — shoes, clothing, food.

Teri remembers having to tell Jakylee that she had cereal but not milk.

“She’ll be like, ‘I’m not hungry,’ and she’ll go to bed…” says Teri. “It’s like she just be trying to make it easier on me. But I know that `cause I know her and I know how she eat and for her to go to bed and say she’s not hungry, she ain’t going to eat, I know it’s not true.”

You can stand in the gap for a family in need

Please give today to help parents like Teri provide for their hungry children. Your gift can provide boxes filled with food and essentials that will put smiles on the faces of children like Braylee.

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Donate

You can provide food and essentials for hungry children like Braylee!

FEED Celebrates National Agriculture Day

Written by Andrew McNamee, Manager of Public Policy

Today is the Agriculture Council of America’s (ACA) National Agriculture Day! The ACA began the National Agriculture Day program in 1973, and it has continued during National Agriculture Week every subsequent March. National Ag Day celebrates the contributions of agriculture to our everyday lives, and encourages Americans to understand how their food products are produced and the role agriculture plays in the economy.

At Feed the Children (FEED), we gratefully recognize the critical role America’s farmers play in our shared prosperity. Thanks to continual innovation and research, the U.S. enjoys an agricultural surplus unrivaled in human history. However, on this National Ag Day, FEED recognizes that there is still room for improvement, because prosperity in food production does not guarantee food security or a nutritionally aware population. The fact is that we still struggle to ensure that our most vulnerable children—even children in the same rural farming communities where so much food is produced—have access to a healthy, nourishing diet. FEED has spent nearly four decades working to fill in the gaps, whether through food distribution by our trucking fleet, the delivery of backpacks containing food and hygiene essentials, or the provision of summer meals to food-insecure kids when school is out. FEED works with donors, volunteers and corporate partners to make sure that our country’s food security and nutritional health match our agricultural accomplishments.

FEED is also active internationally, with programs in 10 countries, working to share America’s agricultural abundance with the world. You can learn more about our domestic programs here and our international programs here. You can also learn more about U.S. agriculture and National Ag Day here!

Child Hunger in America: Thomas and James’ story

Thomas is weary. As the oldest boy in his family, this 14-year-old carries a heavy weight on his narrow shoulders.

“We have a big family, so, we kinda run out [of food],” says Thomas (names have been changed to protect the privacy of those we serve).

“It’s not fun to be hungry. I just wish life here was better for all of us,” he continues. “And I wish there was more food for all of us, instead of all of us going hungry…”

Thomas is especially protective of his 6-year-old brother, James.

“He’s the funnest little brother anybody could have,” says Thomas. “Me and him do a lot of stuff together. We go fishing. We go walking up and down the road. We go walk in the creek. We swim. We play a lot. It’s fun.”

James agrees, saying, “I like to do things with my brother.” He also really likes their dog, Brownie.

The brothers have a special bond. As a teenage boy, Thomas is always hungry, but he often gives up his share of food for James.

“I’m thinking that, well, he needs more food than I will…,” Thomas explains. He says simply, “I love ‘em.”

Even with his big brother’s sacrifice, James still faces hunger.

“Sometimes we run low on food and I’m hungry and there’s barely any food to eat,” says James. “…when we’re low on food, I feel sad.”

Their mom, Meghan, tries her best. She’s a single mom of 7 living in a poor, rural community. She doesn’t receive any child support. Each month — each day — is a struggle.

“Sometimes I have to go hungry to feed them…I’ll eat what’s left. If there’s nothing left, then I won’t eat.”

— Meghan

“Some days I want to cry,” she says. “Some days I ask the Lord for bigger help — that’s the only thing I know to do is pray for help from the Lord.”

Like Thomas, Meghan sacrifices.

“Sometimes I have to go hungry to feed them,” she says. “I’d rather feed them than myself anyway. I mean, I’ll eat what’s left. If there’s nothing left, then I won’t eat.”

And, at times, everyone suffers.

“There’s been a couple of times they’ve — we’ve — all went to bed hungry. Yeah. And I’ve cried myself to sleep,” Meghan says. “Kids shouldn’t never have to go hungry.”

Thomas shares this burden with his mom and tries to comfort her.

“Sometimes I would wake up and I would hear that she would be crying and I would just tell her that it’s gonna be okay,” says Thomas. “And I’d actually tell her that she needs to eat too, even though sometimes she doesn’t just to feed us. And she told me that she would rather starve than us starve to death. And that kinda made me cry a little bit, too.”

“I wish there could be more food for all of us, instead of us going hungry and stuff. It’s bad.”

— Thomas

Despite all of the family’s difficulties, Thomas still has hope for a better future.

“I want to try to be a doctor with a good-paying job and support the family…,” he says.

And what does he hope for today?

“I would change mostly the way we’re living,” says Thomas. “Like there would be food on the table every night, 3 times a day.”

You can stand in the gap for a family in desperate need

Please give today to help feed hungry children like James, Thomas and their brothers and sisters. Your gift can provide boxes filled with food and essentials that will put smiles on the faces of children like James.

Donate

You can provide food and essentials for hungry children like Thomas and James!

Child Hunger in America: Gracie and Annalise’s story


Gracie

Meet Gracie and Annalise (names have been changed to protect the privacy of those we serve).

Gracie is 11 and Annalise is just 5. They are both so young, but already know how tough life can be.

“My sister has headaches and migraines and seizures,” explains Gracie. Their mom, Carrie, adds, “I’ve got to make sure she eats to keep from getting headaches — to keep from bringing on the seizures.”

Having good, nutritious meals is important for every child, but especially for Annalise. Her seizures can be so intense, they frighten Gracie.

“She worries about Annalise a lot,” Carrie says. “When Annalise has a seizure or migraine, she don’t want to leave her side.”

Gracie and Annalise

“I worry about her because she’s my sister and I don’t know what I would do if I don’t have her around,” says Gracie.

Not long ago, this family of four was doing well. Carrie and her husband, Jerry, had good jobs and could provide for their two daughters. Then things changed.

The plant where Jerry worked closed down and the only job he could find was on a shipping barge. He has to be on the barge 28 days at a time, then off for two weeks at home without pay.

Then, Annalise started having seizures and migraines that require multiple trips to the hospital. And Carrie also had to go from working full-time as a nurse to being on call so she could be home with Annalise.

“I worry about her because she’s my sister…”

— Gracie

“Life right now for my family is pretty rough,” Carrie says.

“The struggle has been serious enough to where I’ve wondered if I’m going to be able to feed my kids, because I didn’t have no money left after paying the bills,” she shares through tears.

And the emotional toll of Jerry being gone so much is hard on the family.

“He’s gone most of the time instead of at home,” Gracie explains about her dad. “It’s something that he don’t want to do. It’s something he had to do.

Gracie

Gracie is aware of the struggles of her family and others in her community. She says, “If I could have one thing, it would be a lot of food that everybody could have.”

This family needed a helping hand to make it through a tough time. Thankfully, because of caring friends like you, Carrie received boxes of food and essentials through Feed the Children.

She says, “It’s gonna make us feel 100% better to know that we’ve got something that we can go home and eat, and the girls will enjoy.”

You can stand in the gap for a family in need

Please give today to help feed a hungry family like Carrie’s. Your gift can provide boxes filled with food and essentials that will put smiles on the faces of children like Gracie and Annalise.

Gracie and Annalise

Donate

You can provide food and essentials for children like Gracie and Annalise!

Child Hunger in America: Travaris’ story

“Running out of food is hard,” Travaris says.

This bright and active 10-year-old has been raised by his great-grandma, Martha, since he was a baby (names have been changed to protect the privacy of those we serve). She does her best to take care of and provide for Travaris, but it’s tough on just her social security income and food stamps.

“It hurts inside that I can’t do things for him,” she says with tears in her eyes. “At times it is difficult to keep him fed.”

Travaris and Martha try to focus on the positive. They are thankful to have each other and to have a roof over their heads.

And Martha is thankful that Travaris is a good student. He’s also a talented athlete. Martha beams with pride as she talks about him.

“I have great expectations for Travaris,” she says. “He’s going to go far.”

Travaris holding a book on his lap

Travaris has so much potential.

But if he continues to struggle to get enough to eat — especially nutritious food — his future that seems so full of hope will be in jeopardy.

“Sometimes we don’t have enough money and we are always using milk, eggs and bread — so we’re always running out of those,” Travaris says.

“At times it is difficult to keep him fed.”

— Martha, Travaris’ great-grandma

Their daily struggle also means sacrificing even simple expenses like the $2 admission to watch Travaris play football.

Travaris Playing football

“It’s tough…I was sitting in my car today watching the game,” Martha says. “I mean that’s just the way it is. There’s not money there when you need it for extracurricular activities.”

Because Martha knows that $2 can go toward buying Travaris milk or eggs — and providing nutritious food for him has to take priority.

“My granny tries hard to get me the foods that I would like to eat,” Travaris explains, but “…at the end of the month we are always out of money so she tries hard to get more food.”

You can stand in the gap for a family in need

You can make sure families like Martha and Travaris have the food and essentials they so urgently need. Without our help, families often run out. The end of the month is always the worst.

“The last week and a half there’s no money left — it’s gone,” says Martha.

Please step in and fill the gap for families like this! Give today.

Travaris and grandma

Donate

You can provide food and essentials for a child like Travaris!

Hunger in America: Running out of food

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Cathy loves her children. She describes 3-year-old Saul as “very smart” and 2-year-old Carla as “very sassy.” She tells me that Carla is her miracle baby — she was on a ventilator for the first 2-1/2 weeks of her life.

Coming close to losing her has created an extra sense of protectiveness. That makes it especially tough on Cathy when she struggles to provide for Carla and Saul.

“I do run out of food, and it’s sad, sometimes it breaks my heart,” Cathy says.

“There are countless times that I’ve broke down crying because I didn’t have nothing for the kids, or nothing for myself,” she says.

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What makes it even more frustrating for Cathy is that she has a full-time job at a canning factory. But it’s not enough.

“I get paid every Thursday, but by the time that I pay my bills, I have maybe enough money to put in my gas tank so I can make it back and forth to work…” Cathy explains.

Cathy wants to go to school to become a pharmaceutical technician so she can earn a better income, but wonders how she can take classes and still work to provide for her family. The day to day struggle is very real.

“Running out of food is — it makes me just feel like a bad mom sometimes and I don’t like that feeling…” Cathy says. “I like to make sure my kids are well taken care of.”

You can help defeat hunger by providing food and essentials for a family in need

Your support can help a mom like Cathy put food on the table for her two children.

Your gift today will provide a box of food and a box of essentials to meet urgent needs for a struggling family. It’s just $38 for both boxes! Please give today, if you can. Good food will put smiles on the faces of children like Carla and Saul!

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