April 30, 2010

Feeding America today announced their strong endorsement of the"Weekends Without Hunger Act, which was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswoman Dina Titus (NV) and the U.S. Senate by Senators Arlen Specter (PA) and Robert P. Casey, Jr. (PA). This critical piece of legislation will be instrumental in helping to provide nutritious food to children who might otherwise be at risk of hunger during the weekends and school vacations.

This legislation establishes a pilot program that provides commodities to eligible institutions, such as schools and emergency food providers, to carry out projects that would provide nutritious food to at-risk school children on weekends and during extended school holidays during the school year. Eligible institutions must be located in low-income communities, meaning at least 50% of the children are eligible to receive free or reduced-price school meals. This 5-year pilot project would begin in fiscal year 2011. Each fiscal year a minimum of $10,000,000 would be distributed for the purchase of commodities. An interim and final evaluation would be completed in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

"Feeding America is pleased that Representative Titus and Senators Specter and Casey have introduced this important piece of legislation. Currently there are no targeted Federal nutrition programs that feed children on weekends, when they do not have access to school meals. The 'Weekends Without Hunger Act' will fill this gap by funding pilot programs that will provide healthy food to children who would otherwise be at risk of hunger," said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, nearly one out of every four U.S. children is food insecure, meaning that they do not have consistent access to adequate amount of nutritious food.

For many children at risk of hunger in this country, school breakfasts and lunches are a main source of food throughout the week. On average, more than 19 million school age children eat a free or reduced price meal at school each day. However, there is currently no targeted Federal child nutrition program available to provide these children with food during the weekend and extended holidays when they do not have access to school meals.

In response to the growing problem of children coming to school hungry on Mondays and after extended school holidays, new models are emerging to fill the gap for children during these times. One example of such a program is Feeding America's BackPack Program. This program provides backpacks filled with nutritious food that is child-friendly, non-perishable, and easily-consumed.

These backpacks are discreetly distributed to children on the last day before the weekend or holiday vacation. Currently, 140 Feeding America members operate more than 3,600 BackPack Programs and serve more than 190,000 children in 46 states and the District of Columbia. While the BackPack Program has received generous private funding, it has not kept pace with the overwhelming demand. Many programs have begun waiting lists because they are unable to fulfill every request for service. Federal support is needed to expand these efforts to more low income communities in our country, so that we can ensure that no child goes hungry when they are not at school.

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