In a year when the news for persons living in poverty tends to be bleak, it is nice to be able to have something good to celebrate. A coalition led by D.C. Hunger Solutions worked hard to include school suppers for the District in the Department of Agriculture Appropriation. (Legal Aid was a signer in support of the effort). D.C. Hunger Solutions' press release is below.
|District of Columbia Added to National Afterschool Meal Program
Thousands of Low-Income D.C. Children Will Benefit from Expanded Access to Healthy Meals
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Washington, D.C. - October 1, 2009 - The District of Columbia was added to the list of states that can participate in the federally-funded Afterschool Meal Program, thanks to a provision included in the FY 2010 Agriculture Appropriations conference report. House and Senate conferees completed work on the bill yesterday, and Congress is expected to vote on it next week. As a result, thousands of low-income children and youth across the city will benefit.
The Afterschool Meal Program for nonprofits and schools is a little-known initiative making a big difference for low-income children. The program provides federal funding so afterschool and youth development programs (like YMCA's, Boys and Girls Clubs, church-based programs) in low-income areas can serve supper each weeknight to children in their care. Previously only ten states - Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and West Virginia - were able to operate the Afterschool Meal Program. The FY 2010 Agriculture Appropriations conference report adds the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Nevada, and Wisconsin to the program.
"When parents are struggling to hold onto jobs, working extra-long or nontraditional hours, commuting long distances, or trying to get back into the workforce and need afterschool care for their children in order to do so, it absolutely makes sense to give this help to afterschool programs to feed their kids," said Alex Ashbrook, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions, an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). "The Afterschool Meal Program is an important program that will make a tremendous difference for our children. Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the District's families will benefit from this important program."
According to Ashbrook, more than 14,000 D.C. children receive a snack in afterschool programs. "But, a snack is not enough to fuel growing bodies, especially when some children eat lunch at school as early as 11 a.m., and especially when children are in afterschool programs till 5, 6 or 7 p.m.," added Ashbrook.
The Afterschool Meal Program also has the added benefit of helping to keep children on the right track. The nutritious meals draw hungry children into educational and enrichment activities that keep them learning and safe during the after school hours, which is the time when they are most likely to get into trouble.
Both the House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill next week, and it then will head to the President for his signature. Once it is passed, afterschool programs in Washington, D.C. will be able to start accessing federal dollars to offer meals.