Lowey, USDA Official, and Food Bank for Westchester Hold Child Hunger Roundtable and Food Bank Tour in Hottest and Hungriest Season
66,000 children in Westchester are food insecure; 13,600 in Rockland enrolled in school nutrition programs
Families of kids receiving free and reduced lunch in school face hundreds in additional costs in summer
Congress must save and strengthen child nutrition programs
Elmsford, NY – Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland) and United States Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon yesterday toured Food Bank for Westchester’s distribution center and held a roundtable on helping children at risk of hunger during the summer.
“The dog days of summer shouldn’t also be the hungry days of summer,” said Lowey, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee. “Yet tens of thousands of children in the Lower Hudson Valley are hungry in the months they don’t attend school where they receive vital meals. We can’t expect children to grow, thrive, and succeed if they are hungry. That’s why I’m working with Food Bank for Westchester and USDA Under Secretary Concannon to pass legislation to save and expand summer feeding programs and other nutrition initiatives for millions of American children and families.”
Under Secretary Concannon said, “The USDA has long recognized summer as a vulnerable time for kids and has been focused on closing the food security gap that occurs during the months when school is out of session. Since 2009, more than 1.2 billion meals have been served through the Summer Meal Programs, fueling kids and teens throughout the summer and helping to ensure they are healthy and ready to learn when the school year begins. Alongside Congresswoman Lowey, New York State, the Food Bank for Westchester, and other partners, we will continue our commitment to the New Yorkers most in need.”
President and CEO of the Food Bank for Westchester Ellen Lynch added, “One in five people in Westchester County are food insecure, and 33 percent of those people are children. We thank Congresswoman Nita Lowey and USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon for their visit today and are grateful for their efforts on behalf of children and families. With their help, we are optimistic that we will be able to expand our summer feeding programs and make sure that more children receive the nutritious food they need and deserve.’’
Millions of American children are food insecure, including 66,000 in Westchester County, according to the Food Bank for Westchester. Many go without the nutritional support they receive at school during the summer months, including up to 25,000 Westchester students in grades five and under who receive free or reduced lunches in school. In Rockland County, according to People to People for Rockland, food insecurity affects 9.5 percent of the population, including 13,641 children enrolled in school nutrition programs. The Food Bank of Westchester officials said that, based on Feeding America estimates, families need an additional $318 for meals in the summer for each child who loses the benefit of free or reduced school lunch programs while school is out.
Following a tour of the Food Bank for Westchester’s impressive distribution center, Lowey and Concannon heard from hunger relief advocates, youth agency and nutrition program representatives, and school officials about the dire circumstances facing many local families and proposals to close the meal gap.
Joe Allen, Chairman of the Board for People to People for Rockland, which served nearly 47,000 individuals last year, said, “Since the recession began in 2008, the number of Rocklanders needing the services of the People to People pantry increases virtually every single month. In the throes of summer, the situation gets more severe. Too many parents now dread the financial strain that comes with feeding their families in the summer, traditionally the season of rest and relaxation.”
Elmsford Union Free School District Superintendent Joseph Ricca said, “Too many of our children are living in a constant state of uncertainty and anxiety about finding their next nutritious meal. During the summer months or holiday school recesses, these concerns are exacerbated. We must continue to work hard to support our neediest children and their families by providing them with opportunities to secure the food that they need during these challenging times. We are grateful to Congresswoman Lowey, Under Secretary Concannon and the Food Bank for Westchester for continuing to bring these dire circumstances affecting our children to the forefront.”
Congress is overdue to pass a Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill. Many related programs expired last summer, were temporarily extended, and will expire on September 30th. The bill Republicans passed in the House Education and Workforce Committee in May to reauthorize the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 would put more children at risk of hunger year-round.
The partisan bill’s shortcomings include:
· A higher threshold for the Community Eligibility Provision, which helps schools with high poverty rates provide free breakfast and lunch to all students;
· Block grants and decreased funding for states in place of vital and successful initiatives like the Summer Food Service Program and school lunch and breakfast programs; and
· No permanent authorization and less funding than is currently provided for the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) for Children pilot project.
As Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, Congresswoman Lowey has strongly supported the Summer EBT program since 2010 and President Obama’s proposal to expand it nationwide, including for New York families. It provides debit-like cards for food purchases during the summer to families with children in free and reduced lunch school feeding programs. Concannon said Summer EBT has helped reduce the most severe food insecurity by one-third during the summer months and enabled children at risk of hunger to eat more nutritious meals in the eight states where it operates.
“Thankfully we have great organizations like People to People for Rockland and the Food Bank for Westchester to fill the hunger gap,” said Lowey. “Our communities are strongest when our economy helps Americans secure good jobs that fully support their families and when the government safety net is sufficient to help when they need it. When Congress returns to Washington in September, ending hunger for millions of young Americans must be a top priority. Our children are counting on us to put food on the table, and we cannot let them down.”
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