Be An Advocate

April 22, 2019

Afterschool Meals

3 Tips For Engaging Teens In The Summer And In Afterschool Meal Programs (Boost Café, April 16, 2019)
The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) outlines how to reach more teens with afterschool and summer meals programming. The Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs provide funding to serve meals and snacks afterschool and during the summer months when school is not in session. Both a snack and supper can be served to children and teens up to age 18 at sites in low-income communities that offer educational and enrichment activities, such as schools, recreation centers, YMCAs, and Boys & Girls Clubs.


New Yorkers who receive federal food assistance can now order groceries online (USA Today, April 18, 2019)
New Yorkers who receive food assistance from the federal government will be able to order and pay for groceries online for the first time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced. Those taking part in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) who have electronic benefit transfer cards could start buying meats, produce and milk from Walmart and Amazon on April 18, and from ShopRite this week. The two-year pilot will eventually extend to SNAP recipients in Alabama, Nebraska, Iowa, New Jersey, Maryland, Oregon and Washington. The pilot is a way to make sure that those who are lower income or who have difficulty getting to an actual store aren’t left out, federal officials said.

School Meals

Countless American families are saddled with student lunch debt. Many won’t be able to pay it off. (The New Food Economy, April 22, 2019)
According to a survey of 1,500 school districts, median lunch debt rose from $2,000 to $2,500 per school between 2016 and 2018, and anecdotal stories from individual districts paint an increasingly concerning picture. In December 2018, The Washington Post reported that K-12 students in the D.C. area, which comprises multiple school districts, owed a collective $500,000 in unpaid lunch balances. At the end of the 2017-2018 school year, Denver, Colorado’s school districts saw meal debt rise to $356,000 from $13,000 in 2016—a 96 percent increase. “The issue of unpaid school meal debt really does shine a light on the challenges within the school nutrition programs,” says Crystal FitzSimons, director of school and out-of-school time programs for the Food Research & Action Center. “In an ideal world, school breakfast and school lunch would be offered at no charge to all students, and that would be the easiest way to solve school districts’ challenges with unpaid school meal debt.” Many low-income areas already serve school meals at no charge to all students, using a USDA program called community eligibility. Under community eligibility, schools that serve a certain threshold of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches can bypass the logistical hurdle of collecting and submitting applications altogether. The program has seen increasing participation since its nationwide launch in 2014.

Hundreds of Washington schools to offer breakfast in class next year (K5 News, April 13, 2019)
Next year, hundreds of Washington State schools will offer every student breakfast after the first bell rings, in hopes of boosting the number of students who eat a nutritious meal in the morning. A new law passed by Washington lawmakers last year implemented a program called Breakfast After the Bell. Schools where over 70 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals will be required to offer some form of Breakfast After the Bell, such as breakfast in the classroom, “grab and go” breakfast, or second chance breakfast. For the 2019–2020 school year, at least 390 Washington State schools will participate in the program.

Senior Poverty

Retiring On Next To Nothing In America (Forbes, April 17, 2019)
According to the most recent census, 9 percent of the U.S. population over 65 lived in poverty in 2010. This article uses Opelousas-Eunice Louisiana, which had an elder poverty rate of 28.4 percent, as a case study into the hard realities of many older adults hoping to retire in America. In Opelousas, where over 75 percent of residents are African American, annual per capita income was only $15,489 in 2017, and 43 percent of the population lived in poverty. Many elderly Opelousans rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to eat. SNAP helps reduce food insecurity, but for the poorest of the poor hunger is still a problem.

Rural Housing

Housing’s hidden crisis: Rural Americans struggle to pay rent (CBS News, April 10, 2019)
In tiny towns and counties across the country, an increasing share of rural residents are struggling to pay for housing. The share of residents who are severely burdened by housing costs has surged since the housing crash of 2006 to 2010. In rural America, the affordability crisis is almost the inverse of cities such as New York, where rapidly rising incomes and a population surge are driving housing prices upward. “Housing costs are lower in rural areas, but incomes are pretty low too,” said Lance George of the Housing Assistance Council, a nonprofit focusing on rural housing. The crisis may only worsen because government programs like the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s program offering mortgages in rural areas are struggling to keep up with market changes. The Trump administration’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget also contains cuts for rural housing programs.

College Hunger

Colleges Grapple with Student Food Insecurity (Spotlight On Poverty, April 17, 2019)
In the United States, nearly 13 percent of people are food insecure, living without reliable access to basic nutrition. But the problem is even more dramatic on college campuses, where a recent study found that 48 percent of students report food insecurity and live without regular access to food. A solution being implemented on many campuses across the country is on-campus emergency food pantries. While emergency food is a necessary piece of a community’s food security infrastructure, many experts are cautious when institutional systems, like public education, look first to a charitable response to a lack of basic needs such as food access. Hunger is not an issue of food scarcity in the United States; rather, it is an issue of income inequality, access to safety net programs, and the effectiveness of safety net policy. SNAP, the country’s most effective safety net program against food insecurity, is often difficult for students to navigate and access due to onerous work requirements and a difficult application process.

LGBTQ Poverty

Survey: LGBTQ Poverty In Midwest Higher Than National Average (April 17, 2019)
A survey of LGBTQ Midwesterners and their families conducted by the Center for American Progress finds they are more likely to receive public assistance than non-LGBTQ people. The image of the upper middle class white male gay couple has been shaped by television and movies, but the true picture is much different, said Caitlin Rooney a researcher. “LGBTQ people in the Midwest are 3.8 times more likely to receive SNAP than non-LGBTQ people. So if we are seeing these sort of attacks on SNAP that are going to impact people across the country, we know it’s very likely LGBTQ people are going to be disproportionally hurt,” she said.