Because food programs are under threat of losing federal dollars at the worst possible moment for poverty and child hunger, AFT secretary-treasurer Lorretta Johnson joined U.S. Department of Agriculture officials and other anti-hunger advocates Sept. 15 in a virtual town hall meeting on how to fight this scourge.
"Hunger is an obstacle that prevents children from doing their best in school," Johnson said in explaining the AFT's advocacy to 1,800 participants on a call hosted by Feeding America. She noted that hungry kids find it hard to do their schoolwork, and may fall behind in school and then need lots of extra help catching up. Kids deprived of good nutrition also risk slower brain development, she added, and are susceptible to obesity.
One in five American households feels some insecurity about where their next meal is coming from, and 59 percent of those households take part in federal food programs, the USDA reports.
What's more, two-thirds of America's teachers and school support personnel see hungry students every day. School staff typically spend their own money to feed these students, according to the anti-hunger group Share Our Strength. "They shouldn't have to do it alone," Johnson said.
Participants in the virtual meeting exchanged strategies on combating child hunger, including training school staff to recognize hunger, offering kids options such as grab-and-go meals, using Friday backpack programs to tide kids over on weekends, and sending home parental consent forms for meal programs not just once but multiple times during the school year.
Feeding America president Vicki Escarra and the other panelists offered these resources:
- Go to the USDA's main anti-hunger site for information and volunteer opportunities.
- Disseminate the national hunger hotline, 866/3-HUNGRY, in your community.
- See Feeding America's "Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011."
- Take action now, during Hunger Action Month, to save federal food programs from the chopping block. [Annette Licitra]
September 16, 2011