FRAC (founded in 1970), D.C. Hunger Solutions (launched in 2002), and Maryland Hunger Solutions (launched in 2007) work to address hunger by improving and expanding the federal nutrition programs (including SNAP/food stamps, school breakfast and lunch, summer and afterschool meals, WIC and child care meals). Our work at the national, state and local levels has ensured that millions of additional low-income Americans receive these crucially important benefits.
Poverty, hunger and food insecurity have dangerous negative effects on child development, health, school achievement, and employability. Food insecurity also is linked with obesity, which has its own set of dire consequences. Fortunately, hunger is a problem that can be solved and in a way that uses available—and abundant—public funding sources. The federal nutrition programs can have a significant impact on the hunger and food insecurity problem in our area, as well as on obesity and other problems of low-income residents, if the state government, its agencies, schools, non-profits, cities and counties use the programs more effectively and maximize the reach of their benefits.
Children and youth who eat school breakfast, for example, have improved math grades, vocabulary skills and memory, and perform better on standardized tests than those who skip breakfast or eat breakfast hours earlier at home; have lower rates of absence and tardiness, visit school nurses’ offices less often, and exhibit decreased behavioral and psychological problems; eat more fruits, drink more milk, and consume a wider variety of foods than those who do not eat school breakfast or who have breakfast at home; and are significantly less likely to be overweight, as skipping breakfast is associated with a higher risk of obesity.
Similarly, the summer food and afterschool food programs draw hungry children and youth into school-based and community-based programs that keep them safe and engaged, reduce obesity, and provide basic nutrients at key times when they can’t get them from school meals programs.
Key highlights from our work include:
- D.C. Hunger Solutions is ensuring that more low-income children start the day with a healthy breakfast by helping D.C. public and public charter schools implement the "Healthy Schools Act" – legislation that D.C. Hunger Solutions helped craft and promote. The Act expands access to school meals; raises the nutritional standards and improves the quality of school meals; triples the amount of physical and health education students receive; and expands school-based health and wellness programs. Although averages for school year 2010-2011 are not yet available, initial data indicate that an additional 6,000 students are starting each day with school breakfast in D.C. public and public charters schools. Whereas about 21,000 children on average ate breakfast each day in school year 2009-2010, 27,000 students are expected to have eaten breakfast each day in school year 2010-2011 – an increase of 28.5 percent.
- Maryland Hunger Solutions’ intensive outreach and training efforts to help increase awareness of and participation in the Afterschool Meal Program in Maryland resulted in a 136 percent increase in daily participation in the past year. The program helps combat hunger and poverty, provides nutritious food that draws children and teens into afterschool enrichment activities, helps parents who work longer hours or non-traditional hours, and provides federal funding so afterschool programs can spend their limited budgets on programming as opposed to food. Maryland Hunger Solutions also works closely with afterschool program providers to explain the Program’s requirements and application process, as well as best practices to increase participation. As an example of our impact, in Prince George’s County, average daily participation in suppers increased from 663 in 2010 to 12,818 in 2011.
- At the national level, FRAC helps shape public policies to combat hunger. For example, through research, awareness-building and advocacy, FRAC helped shaped the recent Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Passed in 2010, its highlights include the expansion of the Afterschool Meal Program (mentioned above) from just a handful of pilot states now to all states nationwide. FRAC touted the pilot states’ successes to key stakeholders and outlined the rationale for expanding the Program nationwide. As a result of the expansion, hundreds of thousands of children will benefit from this program.