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Granite State Rumblings: Hunger And Poverty Don’t Take A Vacation

I love summer! I especially love that I don’t ever have to turn on my oven during the summer. If it can’t be cooked on the barbecue, it isn’t in my recipe file during the summer months. And it seems that there are plenty of great recipes to choose from all summer long. Each meal is always accompanied by locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables and usually a dessert that has been created with farm fresh ingredients. Life is good!

But summertime can be a very difficult time for children who need to eat nutritious meals. Kids may be on vacation, but as a report from FRAC points out, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation.

Nearly 1 in 6 Low-Income Children Receive Summer Meals, Report Finds

Momentum Signals Progress and Outlines Path for Continued Growth

More low-income children are eating summer meals, according to a new report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) which showed more than 3.2 million children participated in the Summer Nutrition Programs in July 2014. This represents a seven percent increase over the previous year, and demonstrates what can be done when the federal government, states, and communities make summer food a priority.

There was significant progress in 2014 in reaching a higher proportion of children in need. In its annual report, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, FRAC measures the success of Summer Nutrition Programs at the national and state levels by comparing the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. By that measure, one in six children (16:100) who needed summer nutrition received it. In July 2013, the ratio was 15:100.

“Higher participation rates in summer food mean more low-income children get the fuel they need to thrive over the summer months,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “Congress can further this progress in this year’s Child Nutrition Reauthorization law by making strategic and thoughtful investments in the Summer Nutrition Programs that bolster their capacity to serve even more children.”

The Summer Nutrition Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program over the summer period, provide free meals at participating summer sites at schools, parks, other public agencies, and nonprofits for children under 18. Not only do children benefit from the free meals, but they also benefit from the enrichment activities that keep them learning and engaged.

Leadership by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) contributed to this progress. The agency has prioritized summer meal growth by partnering with national organizations to increase the number of sponsors and sites and by providing hands-on assistance to states. As a result, the Summer Nutrition Programs served lunch to 3.2 million children on an average day in July 2014, an increase of more than 215,000, or 7.3 percent, from July 2013.

These gains pave the way for even more progress to be made. If every state had reached the goal of 40 children participating in Summer Nutrition in July 2014 for every 100 receiving free or reduced-price lunch during the 2013-2014 school year, an additional 4.6 million children would have been fed each day, and states would have collected an additional $360 million in child nutrition funding in July alone.

“Participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs has continued to increase over the last three years and thousands more children are being reached as a result,” said Weill. “Working together, we can continue to build on this progress and move closer to a hunger-free summer for all children.”

About the report: The Food Research and Action Center’s annual summer report, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, gives data for all states and looks at national trends. The report measures participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs by comparing the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. The regular school year is used as a measure because such a high proportion of low-income children eat school lunch on regular school days. FRAC measures national summer participation during the month of July, when typically all children are out of school throughout the month and lose access to regular year school meals.

To find a summer meals site near you click on this link and follow the directions:
http://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks

GROWING UP GRANITE

Those who know me well will tell you that I am passionate when it comes to the subject of poverty, especially child poverty. I am privileged to work for an organization that allows me to invest my time and energy in advocating for children who live in poverty, working on solutions to poverty and the programs that serve our most vulnerable population, and educating our elected officials and the public about the hazards of growing up in poverty.

Sometimes I go to bed wondering why this work has chosen me as there are many days that I feel burned out, frustrated and powerless. But then I see the smiling face of a child in a Head Start program when he proudly shows me how he has learned to write his name, or I listen to a mom who is struggling to find a job that will pay her enough to keep food on the table and a roof over the head of her children, and the fire ignites once again.

There are a lot of great people who work on this issue and so many other important issues. They proudly wear their orange badges in the Legislative Office Building and State House of New Hampshire. They sit in committee hearings, testify on bills, call and meet with legislators and the Governor’s office, meet and strategize with others who are working on the issues, and rally the troops.

Others do their work outside of the legislative process, working in the departments, agencies, and programs that serve children and families. Their dedication to those families and their willingness to share their knowledge with advocates and others is essential to the process.

While there is still work to do on a state budget before the end of the year, I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who advocate each and every day. I also want to thank all of you who have answered our requests to write letters, call your representatives, talk to your friends, co-workers, and neighbors and have gotten involved. We could not do our work without your assistance.

We also could not have done our jobs without the voices of those who have been willing to tell their personal stories. They are the true heroes. Their voices are important and necessary, as they speak with the knowledge and urgency that an advocate who has not walked a mile in their shoes can even hope to approximate.

It is our hope that the Governor and Legislators will work diligently and swiftly to carve out a budget agreement that is fair to all Granite State citizens and one that will move individuals and families forward. We also hope that the voices of those who rely upon all government supported programs will be heard in these meetings.

Last week Governor Hassan vetoed SB 169 and indicated that she will sign HB 219 when it reaches her desk. We thank the Governor for taking this reasonable and fair approach to legislation that will affect those who rely upon public assistance and use electronic benefit transfer cards in our state.

Governor Hassan’s Veto Message Regarding SB 169

Governor Maggie Hassan released the following message after vetoing SB 169:

“By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, Article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on July 10, 2015, I have vetoed Senate Bill 169, relative to the permissible uses of electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards.

“Senate Bill 169 prohibits the use of cash received from electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards for the purpose of gambling and the purchase of tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets, firearms, and adult entertainment. While the sponsors and I agree that public assistance should not be used for these purposes, the approach taken by this legislation would be unenforceable, as retail clerks and sales associates would have no way of determining where an individual’s cash came from at the time of sale.  That is why I will sign the alternative – and workable – version of this legislation, House Bill 219.

“Senate Bill 169 could lead to retail clerks being in the uncomfortable position of policing potential abuse by trying to decide whether ‘someone looks like’ they receive assistance. That could lead to discrimination, as many of those who opposed the bill warned. The seniors, people with disabilities, and struggling families who receive cash public assistance sometimes have alternative sources of income, making it nearly impossible to determine the source of the cash that is being utilized for the purchase.

“House Bill 219 allows for a more enforceable approach to address the issue of potential public assistance fraud or abuse. House Bill 219 prevents use of EBT cards within body piercing or tattoo parlors, cigar stores and smoke shops, and marijuana dispensaries. These locations are exclusive to the product or service they provide, and thus preventing use of EBT cards in these establishments does not prevent someone from purchasing basic household items that these locations do not sell. House Bill 219 also requires an educational component for cash assistance recipients and retail establishments, something Senate Bill 169 fails to do. For these reasons, I will be signing into law House Bill 219 when it reaches my desk.

“Senate Bill 169 establishes an unenforceable precedent that could put our cashiers and retail clerks in the untenable position of determining the source of a customer’s cash in an attempt to police potential abuse, along with denying access to families who need and qualify for this financial support. I will be signing House Bill 219, which accomplishes this bill’s goals of protecting taxpayer dollars used in this critical program without creating an unenforceable regulation or the potential for discrimination. Therefore, I have vetoed Senate Bill 169.”

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About MaryLou Beaver

New Hampshire Campaign Director Every Child Matters Education Fund
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