Secretary Vilsack Hears from Bread Member
As a registered dietitian for South Carolina’s Greenville County schools, Bread member Jennifer Sharp sees too many hungry children – especially during the summers. That’s why she participated in a conference call last week with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. She’s concerned about the “summer hunger gap,” when millions of kids who receive food assistance during the school year aren’t able to access summer food sites.
“In South Carolina, we had 50 summer feeding sites last year and could only serve 3,000 meals in a district of 70,000 students,” Sharp told Vilsack. She asked him to provide information about USDA’s efforts to study new ways to feed kids during the summer, and how the USDA plans to build on these efforts when the child nutrition programs come up for reauthorization this year.
Forty-six percent of the students in Greenville County receive free or reduced-price meals, Sharp says, and she hears regularly from school officials about the dire situations many kids experience.
“The Berea Elementary School manager called to tell me they have a student we feed daily whose family was living in a tent behind the BI-LO grocery store in Berea,” Sharp says. “Our kids are unwilling victims of the financial crisis. We need to be able to provide meals to more students through changes in the reauthorization act.”
Nationally, 19.4 million low-income children receive food assistance at lunch on an average school day, but only 11 percent access summer food program sites. The “summer hunger gap” that Sharp raised with Secretary Vilsack leaves more than 17 million vulnerable children without access to food in the summer. Finding better ways to connect hungry children with food in the summer is a priority of Bread’s work on child nutrition reauthorization.
Sharp’s participation in the call shows how important it is that government leaders hear directly from members about what’s going on in their communities.
“Jennifer’s asking a question on the call with Secretary Vilsack was incredibly helpful to our efforts, both in effecting good policy and in strengthening the efficacy of Bread’s work,” said Sophie Milam, Bread’s senior domestic policy analyst. “On policy, it elevates the summer child hunger gap as an important issue for the administration and raises awareness about the limitations of the summer food program among call participants. For Bread, it affirms Bread’s engagement in child nutrition reauthorization, which only amplifies our ability to be effective advocates.”
For more information about child nutrition, including how you can influence the reauthorization of child nutrition programs, see www.bread.org/childnutrition.
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