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The Weekly Food Research and Action Center News Digest highlights what's new on hunger, nutrition and poverty issues at FRAC, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, around the network of national, state and local anti-poverty and anti-hunger organizations, and in the media. The Digest will alert you to trends, reports, news items and resources and, when available, link you directly to them.
Issue #11, April 16, 2014
- New Hampshire Organizations and Agencies Challenge State to Boost School Breakfast Participation
- Delaware Considering Raising SNAP-Related LIHEAP Payment Minimum, Announces School Breakfast Grants
- Summer Nutrition Program is Top Priority for USDA This Year
- Georgia Could Lose SNAP Administration Funding Over Application Backlog and Other Problems
- More Florida Schools Begin Serving Breakfast in the Classroom
- Food Insecurity Among College Students Rising
- Some Tax Preparers Target Low-Income Filers in Order to Skim EITC Funds
Make plans to attend the Food Research and Action Center's Annual Benefit Dinner, Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at the Capital Hilton, Washington, D.C. The proceeds from the dinner will benefit FRAC's Campaign to End Childhood Hunger, which is achieving major gains in feeding children in communities throughout the United States. For more information, please call (202) 986-2200 x3950. To purchase tickets, please visit FRAC's website.
1. New Hampshire Organizations and Agencies Challenge State to Boost School Breakfast Participation
(Seacoastonline.com, March 29, 2014)
Although the 2013 Annie E. Casey Kids Count Report listed New Hampshire as leading the nation in child well-being, the Food Research and Action Center ranked the state 50th over the last two years for school breakfast participation, writes Bill Duncan of the NH Kids Count board in this letter to the editor. “So, N.H. Kids Count and its partners, the New England Dairy & Food Council, N.H. Department of Education and the School Nutrition Association of New Hampshire are challenging the state’s schools to improve participation rates by 25 percent over the next two years,” Duncan writes. The groups launched the N.H. School Breakfast Challenge in October 2013 and created a website – nhschoolbreakfast.org – to offer resources, technical assistance and highlight funding opportunities. “In order for the challenge to work, we have to get both schools and students into new habits,” Duncan concludes. “Students must, of course, eat breakfast every school day. And we need schools to provide breakfast in new ways and with new menus.”
2. Delaware Considering Raising SNAP-Related LIHEAP Payment Minimum, Announces School Breakfast Grants
(Delaware Online, April 8, 2014)
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and officials from the Delaware Food Bank recently met for a day-long conference on hunger issues. The state is considering boosts to heating assistance payments to the poor. Congress changed the SNAP rules to increase the minimum in heating assistance to $20 from $1, which helps a household receive more adequate SNAP benefits. The $300,000 the state proposes spending will help provide an additional $6 million in SNAP benefits. A panel at the conference featured SNAP recipients discussing the struggle to afford enough food. Also at the meeting, USDA Administrator Audrey Rowe said the agency would be focusing this summer on providing more meals to children who receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year. “Summer feeding is a major effort in the USDA,” Rowe said. In addition, the Delaware Food Bank and Gov. Markell announced a grant program aimed at increasing the number of children participating in the School Breakfast Program. The Food Bank will provide $20,000 to cover a total of 10 grants.
3. Summer Nutrition Program is Top Priority for USDA This Year
(Mycentraljersey.com, April 2, 2014)
In order to increase the number of children participating in the Summer Food Service Program, and increase the number of program sites, USDA has made the program a top priority for 2014, according to Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. While participation increased from more than 2.28 million children at nearly 39,000 sites in the summer of 2012 to 3.5 million children in 2013, “[t]here is a huge gap between the children who use the school meal program and those that participate in the summer meals program,” said Concannon. “Summer is the time of year where American children are more likely to experience hunger or food insecurity…And the main reason for that is that school is out and they receive the majority of their nutrition at school. When school is closed, they struggle.” New Jersey ranked 10th in the nation last year for providing summer nutrition to 19.8 percent of children receiving free or reduced-price school meals, according to the Food Research and Action Center, which reported the state served more than 13 million meals at 1,038 sites with the help of 96 sponsors*. USDA reports that seven million more meals were served last year through the program, and wants to double that increase this year, noted Concannon.
*Including local schools, camps, libraries, community centers, recreation centers, faith-based organizations (synagogues and churches), YMCAs/YWCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs.
4. Georgia Could Lose SNAP Administration Funding Over Application Backlog and Other Problems
(CBS Atlanta, March 31, 2014)
Georgia could lose up to $76 million in SNAP administrative funding from USDA by May 1 if the state does not solve its SNAP case backlog problem. Understaffing, outdated technology, and a swamped call center have caused many SNAP recipients in the state to lose benefits or be blocked from applying. Unless the state makes significant changes to their SNAP Program processing, federal authorities will pull all or some of the $76 million in administrative funds provided to the state for the program.
5. More Florida Schools Begin Serving Breakfast in the Classroom
(The Ledger, April 7, 2014)
As part of the second wave of an initiative launched in 2010 by Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom, Florida’s Polk County school district is implementing breakfast in the classroom at seven more schools next month. The initiative is a partnership involving the Food Research and Action Center, National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation, National Education Association Health Information Network, School Nutrition Foundation, and Walmart Foundation, which is providing grants to schools to help fund the initial cost of breakfast in the classroom. At Alta Vista Elementary, a pilot school for the program, school officials say breakfast in the classroom has increased student focus, and reduced the number of behavioral problems. “Until we meet basic needs for our children, learning is not really going to happen,” said Polk County Superintendent of Schools Kathryn LeRoy. “If they’re hungry, they’re going to be thinking about the hunger, not about learning.” In Polk County, 73 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, but only 25 percent participate in the School Breakfast Program. Alta Vista has 97 percent of students eligible for subsidized school meals, and served breakfast to 300 more students after it began the pilot program. According to Eyang Garrison, child nutrition policy specialist at the Food Research and Action Center, breakfast in the classroom has a huge impact on school districts. Deneece Sharp, principal at Alta Vista, said serving free breakfast in the classroom helps eliminate the stigma felt by some students receiving school breakfast.
6. Food Insecurity Among College Students Rising
(The Washington Post, April 9, 2014)
As colleges enroll more students from low-income families while tuition costs and living expenses are skyrocketing, administrators are seeing more hungry students. “Between paying rent, paying utilities and then trying to buy food, that’s where we see the most insecurity because that’s the most flexible,” said Monica Gray, director of programs at the College Success Foundation – District of Columbia. But many students won’t ask for help, noted Gray, because they’re humiliated that they’re hungry. The University of Oregon found this year that 59 percent of Western Oregon University students had recently experienced food insecurity, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa found 21 percent of students reported food insecurity in a 2009 survey. However, there is no comprehensive survey on college student hunger. According to the Michigan State University Food Bank, the number of college food banks increased from four in 2008 to 121 in 2014. “Almost as bad as the hunger itself is the stress that you’re going to be hungry,” said Paul Vaughn, a George Mason University economics major in his third year, who has had to get two jobs to help support him as he goes to school. Students are finding they’re having to make the choice between eating or buying books, notes Karen Gerlach, vice-president for student affairs at D.C.’s Trinity Washington University.
7. Some Tax Preparers Target Low-Income Filers in Order to Skim EITC Funds
(The New York Times, April 7, 2014)
There are few barriers to becoming a tax preparer, no tests to pass or codes of ethics to follow, and only four states – Oregon, California, New York and Maryland – regulate tax preparers. Consequently, unscrupulous preparers can target low-income filers claiming the earned-income tax credit (the single largest anti-poverty program in the U.S.) in order to charge high fees which they skim off the filer’s refunds. Check cashers, payday lenders, pawnbrokers and furniture retailers in low-income neighborhoods offer tax-preparation services. The fraudulent preparers charge hundreds of dollars – sometimes up to $1,000 – for their services, money that the filers may not know they’re losing.