We stand up for a Massachusetts where everyone gets a fair shot, does and pays their fair share, and plays by the same rules.
It’s back to school season. For many kids — as was surely the case for me as a child — it can be tough to say goodbye to the freedom of summer. But eventually I would get excited by the prospect of a new year: new teachers, new classes and maybe some new clothes.
But for other kids, this season is exciting for a very different reason: back to school means back to regular meals.
About 15% of kids, which is about 3-5 kids in the average classroom, struggle with hunger and rely on school meals to eat. 16 million kids in the U.S. are at risk of going hungry, and the number of children eligible for the National School Lunch Program has shot up in the wake of the recession, all the way to 48.5 percent of all children. Unfortunately, a very small percentage of those children get meal assistance over the summer.
In Massachusetts, there are more than 272,000 children who receive school meal assistance, but only around 53,000 participate in summer nutrition programs.
September is Hunger Action Month, and those who work to combat hunger all across America are working to raise awareness about hunger in America. This is well timed with the back to school season and the return to healthy lunches and breakfasts for so many children.
The fact of the matter is, hunger is a growing and pervasive problem. Our recent report, Childhood Hunger in America’s Suburbs, shows that hunger is not an urban and rural phenomenon: The risk of childhood hunger is a problem affecting nearly every American community, even some of the nation’s wealthiest suburbs. This includes communities that might otherwise think hunger is a problem that happens “somewhere else.”
The largest percentage of students newly eligible for the free or reduced cost school lunch program since the onset of the recession live in the suburbs – 45 percent. By comparison, 23 percent live in cities and 20 percent live in rural areas.
Hunger programs in schools are critical to children’s health and education. How could we expect children to learn hungry?
As kids go back to school, it is a good time to remember the critical importance of the National School Lunch Program, which serves more than 31 million children nationwide. Congress is going to be focused on renewing this program and other children’s nutrition programs next year, and it is vital that we recognize the role that school lunches play in helping to alleviate hunger in America.
We need to expand and protect these tools — like the National School Lunch Program. Let’s pass the test this school year.