Hunger in America: The Children Need Your Voice

By John Ricketts

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.

4-2015 TRIP2513 MWC Elementary Distribution SMorgan (52) copySFSP 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.

How to Free People from the Federal Hunger Safety Net: Feed the Children’s Testimony to Congress

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.


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Jonathan Webb, Director of Foundation Partnerships at Feed the Children, testifying before the House Agriculture Committee.

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.

Student Strong Eye Exam

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.

webb post 1Feed 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.

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Feed the Children staff pictured in the image above: Kim Baich, Kevin Hagan, Tom Davis, Jonathan Webb, Trevor Moe, and Jayme Cloninger