Posted by Susannah Morgan, Food Bank of Alaska Executive Director
The federal government fights hunger in children through several targeted programs.
The largest of these is taken almost for granted – school meals. It is worth remembering the Congress founded the National School Lunch program in 1946 “as a measure of national security” because so many young men were disqualified for military service due to malnourishment.
Today, approximately 37,000 Alaskan children receive free or reduced price school lunch, and 14,000 receive free or reduced price school breakfast. While federal funds provide reimbursement for these meals, the State of Alaska administers these funds and each school district actually creates meals for their students. School meals are a huge and overlooked collaboration to feed our children.
The most popular federal program ever created is also designed for children: the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC. Pregnant and postpartum women receive food assistance, nutrition counseling, breastfeeding assistance, and other services. Children up to age five receive food and health tracking and intervention. Approximately 27,000 Alaskan women and children participate in WIC – a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), State of Alaska, local municipalities, and nonprofits that directly serve women and children.
There are also three child nutrition programs aimed at children outside of school. The Child and Adult Day Care Program reimburses for meals and snacks at daycares, afterschool programs, shelters, and a few other services. The Summer Food Service Program reimburses for meals and snacks served to children during the summer when school is closed. Both of these programs depend on collaboration between USDA, the State of Alaska, and the daycare or activity program that is actually feeding kids.
How you can fight hunger in five easy steps (without opening your wallet):
(1) Raise awareness. Make sure your coworkers, neighbors, and friends know that hunger affects 13.5% of Alaskans.
(2) Preach 2-1-1. Dial 2-1-1 on your phone in Alaska and you will reach a friendly person who will direct you to local social services, including the anti-hunger programs in the area. Mention 2-1-1 every time someone talks about not knowing how to find services.
(3) Advocate. All of the federal nutrition programs are, to one degree or another, under threat by federal budget cuts. Lend your voice by contacting our Congressional Delegation to tell them nutrition programs are important. Food Bank of Alaska sends out an Advocacy Alert periodically around legislative issues affecting nutrition programs; email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up to receive these alerts.
(4) Invite a speaker. Invite an anti-hunger program to speak to your company, club, class, congregation, study group, etc.
(5) Adopt a program. Research your local anti-hunger programs and choose one that appeals to you. Take your family to volunteer. Ask questions. If there is an opportunity, join the board of directors.