Celebrity foodie extraordinaire, Rachael Ray, has something to say about childhood hunger. Something worth reading. Taken from the August 4 “Statesman Journal.”
For most, “hunger” is a metaphor for a list of wants rather than needs. We hunger for more — more time, more money, more of what the next guy has. Even when we use the term in reference to food it becomes hyperbole. If we go more than five or six hours in any busy day without a meal, we declare, “I’m starving!” just before we bite into our super-sized sandwiches.
Imagine the physical and emotional distress of true hunger. Now imagine suffering that pain as a child. An empty stomach makes a child feel empty emotionally, overlooked and forgotten. Even worse, it stunts their growth, harms their school test scores, spurs behavioral problems and increases school nurse visits.
Nearly 17 million American children struggle against hunger. For these children, school food programs are sometimes the only access they have to food. At the same time, one in three American kids is overweight or suffering from childhood obesity. Hunger and obesity are strange yet constant neighbors. In many cases, our kids are overweight or obese because their families simply cannot afford or physically do not have access to fresh, nutritious foods. School food systems are one of the only level playing fields we have to provide good nutrition to all of our kids.
Every five years or so, Congress reviews and revises the Child Nutrition Act through a process commonly known as Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR). This process sets rules and funding levels for the major youth food programs, including the School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program and a Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Rather than passing a new bill last year when the old one expired, Congress passed a one-year extension, which is set to expire at the end of September.
To truly end child hunger and reduce obesity, nutrition advocates estimate that a new bill would need an additional $4 billion per year. That would go toward improving meal quality by boosting reimbursement rates and reducing child hunger by increasing the number of kids fed by these programs. President Obama proposed a significant down payment towards this goal, requesting an extra $1 billion per year in his budget for CNR improvements.
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