December 8, 2010

Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger relief organization, lauds the passage of H.R. 5012, the Weekends Without Hunger Act by the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill will now be sent to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

"We ask the Senate to quickly consider this important bill before the current session of Congress adjourns. Feeding America strongly supports this bill, which will make significant strides in ensuring that children from low-income families do not go hungry on weekends," said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America."Feeding America is deeply concerned about the health and well-being of the more than 17 million children in this country who live on the verge of hunger."

The Weekends Without Hunger Act authorizes a five-year pilot program, which would provide commodities to eligible institutions, such as schools and emergency food providers, to provide nutritious food to at-risk school children on weekends and during extended school holidays.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, nearly one out of every four U.S. children is food insecure. 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. The backpacks are discreetly distributed to children on the last day before the weekend or holiday vacation. Currently, 151 Feeding America members operate more than 3,600 BackPack Programs which serve more than 190,000 children in 46 states and the District of Columbia.

The BackPack Program has received generous private funding, but 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.

Feeding America is grateful for the leadership of Rep. Dina Titus (NV-3) for introducing this important legislation in the House of Representatives.

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