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COVID-19 Update from Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)

Latest Emergency Package Includes Important Investments, but More Needs to be Done to Help Struggling Households Keep Food on the Table

Statement attributed to Luis Guardia, president, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2020 — The Senate/White House compromise on the $2 trillion emergency package includes key investments that address some important COVID-19 challenges that workers, health care providers, and state, local, and tribal governments face, but more action is needed to help struggling households keep food on the table. Specifically, lawmakers must boost Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in any future stimulus packages.

Although the bill includes $15.5 billion more for SNAP to cover the projected increase in applications and the costs of relief authorized in H.R. 6201, FRAC is disappointed that lawmakers missed this opportunity to include a 15 percent boost to the SNAP maximum benefit and an increase in the minimum monthly SNAP benefit to $30. Such boosts and new investments are critical to ensuring the well-being of vulnerable people and the economy.

The value of SNAP’s effective and quick economic impact was demonstrated during the Great Recession, when benefits were temporarily boosted through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Research shows that during an economic downturn, each $1 of SNAP benefits leads to between $1.50 and $1.80 in total economic activity.

FRAC urges lawmakers to start work now on enacting additional emergency relief that leverages SNAP’s effectiveness in stimulating the economy and promoting food security and health. Hungry people can’t wait.

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For 50 years, the Food Research & Action Center has been the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and make sure to visit our COVID-19 Updates page.

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Feeding America data – what hunger looks like in NH

What Hunger Looks Like in New Hampshire

In New Hampshire

122,860 people are struggling with hunger – and of them 31,640 are children.

1 in 11 people struggles with hunger.

1 in 8 children struggles with hunger.

People facing hunger in the Granite State are estimated to report needing $69,502,000 more per year to meet their food needs.

The average cost of a meal in New Hampshire is $3.31.

Charitable programs are unable to fully support those struggling with hunger. The combination of charity and government assistance programs are necessary to help bridge the meal gap.

SNAP, formerly food stamps, provides temporary help for people going through hard times – providing supplemental money to buy food until they can get back on their feet.

In New Hampshire,

40.6% of households receiving SNAP benefits have children
$101,469,828
distributed through
SNAP generated
$172,498,708 in economic activity*.

*Economists estimate that every dollar a household redeems through SNAP generates about $1.70 in economic activity.

Data from Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap 2019 study.

Learn more ›

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Hannaford donates nearly $200,000 to NH Hunger Solutions

On November 14, 2019, Hannaford Supermarkets announced a $185,150 donation to New Hampshire Hunger Solutions that will allow the non-profit organization to establish food pantries in about a dozen schools throughout the Granite State.  The announcement was made at Raymond High School with students, educators and administrators in attendance, as well as representatives from Hannaford and NH Hunger Solutions Board members.

The donation is one component of an overall $1 million commitment from Hannaford through its new “Fuel Kids for School” initiative, which is designed to directly address food insecurity and improve access to fresh and healthy food across the northeast.  In partnership with area hunger relief organizations, Hannaford will establish, over two years, 90 school food pantries across NH and other northeast states.

Intending to serve as a vital and convenient resource to students and families in need while also increasing access to healthy and nutritious food, the in-school pantries are dedicated spaces where students can select food they enjoy based on their preferences and cooking abilities to provide nourishment both during and after the school day.

During the announcement, Elaine Van Dyke from NH Hunger Solutions said she expected resources targeted at establishing about a dozen school-based food pantries in high schools and potentially another school pantry at a community college in NH.  She said, “Prosperity hides poverty and as a state, we must be proud of New Hampshire’s prosperity for it is this prosperity that puts us in a perfect position to tackle our hidden poverty and hunger.”

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My Turn: Unpaid meal charges and the shaming of students

The following op-ed appeared in the Concord Monitor on September 3, 2019

Unpaid school meal charges are not a new problem. For years, food service staff helped students who forgot their lunch money. Sometimes it was the teacher who stepped in or another staff member. This has been going on for years. I can attest that as a first-grade student in West Virginia, I forgot my lunch money and the school refused to serve me lunch. I cried, and my older sister was called to the principal’s office to calm me down. Problem solved, sister to the rescue. However, I never forgot the feeling of embarrassment. That meal cost 25 cents.

Meal charging occurs because students do not have funds in their account. This happens for many reasons. However, the end result of meal charging is that administrations discover charging contributes to the school’s unallowable debt dilemma. Students are on the receiving end of frustrated staff, and staff are not always sure what to do. Often meals do not qualify for federal or state reimbursements (failed alternative meal). These unintended consequences have not been good for any party.

The upsetting part is that schools are finding more students are hungry with no funds, and food service is often confused about what they should do when a student is staring at them. Occasionally, a student may be the recipient of inappropriate responses to the lack of funds. And this target is misplaced. Students are not the solvers of this problem. When corrective steps are not in place, the loss of funds is a double whammy. And the vulnerable student loses.

Rarely are regulations easy to understand or execute. And in this case, accepting the charging of meals with poor procedures or giving alternative unqualified meals are not solutions to the issue. There is no financial or social reason to serve an unqualified meal, when the object is to feed the student and receive the most funds for that meal. It must only be the reimbursable meal. This is not a conversation about a la carte choices.

By federal law, charges to school food service accounts may not be recovered from USDA federal funds. Without a policy the school loses the charged funds, and reimbursable funds if an unqualified meal is served, or may find they are discriminating against a group of students by offering only an alternate meal. There are solutions.

Start with this premise: Food service policies come from collaborative local work. Currently, schools receive training from numerous sources, including the New Hampshire Department of Education, the leading regulatory authority for USDA meal programs. An important aspect of any policy is the inclusion of state statute RSA 189:11a III, which states all students must have access to a healthy school lunch, that parents will be informed of the policy, and that no student will be subjected to different treatment from the standard school meal or by any school procedures.

Following this state law should relieve schools of issues of shaming and discrimination. Thanks to former state senator Molly Kelly for sponsoring and former governor Maggie Hassan for signing.

The question remains: How do schools solve the existing debt and future debt? With the development of local solutions. A financial policy should be drafted by local school stakeholders, such as food service, business offices and the community. The group will develop a debt policy that includes setting charging limits with procedures for covering costs; closely monitor student and food service balances; and inform parents in a meaningful way. It will identify school supporters who might set up funds to assist with balances. These proactive steps will help manage the charges that may occur.

There are great best practices in New Hampshire among organizations and individuals, such as nonprofits and PTAs, that are applying their fundraising skills to the task. Some schools have added a line item to the district budget, and there are student-run organizations whose mission is to raise money to support meal charges. Some groups have a debit card system for students.

Solutions must be reviewed to ensure they are working. There is no gold card standard in any of these solutions. But they all represent the voice of the school community. When people are a part of the solution, the outcomes are more often great solutions.

Schools will also improve their food service accounting by quickly implementing Senate Bill 82, the breakfast bill signed by Gov. Chris Sununu. Each student who has reduced-priced meal eligibility will receive breakfast for free. Parents will not have to decide between paying for lunch or breakfast. All of us in the hunger arena are grateful for this legislation.

(Elaine VanDyke is the board chairman of NH Hunger Solutions.)

 

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NH Hunger Solutions plays instrumental role in HB82 being signed into law; will provide free breakfasts to low income students

July 30, 2019 – NH Hunger Solutions provided pivotal advocacy and research assistance in securing approval for HB82 which ensures students who are eligible for reduced cost school breakfasts get it at no cost through state and federal funds. HB82 was passed by the Senate on March 7 and signed into law by Governor Sununu July 30.

NH Hunger Solutions’ Elaine Van Dyke was a key advocate behind the legislation, attending all hearings, speaking with legislators and providing  bi-partisan leadership.

The reduced price was formerly $0.30 per meal; advocates said when totaled for an entire school year, this was prohibitive for poor families with multiple kids.

“They often found themselves in the position of having to decide: Do I give them the money for lunch or do I give them the money for breakfast? Usually breakfast fell through the crack,” Van Dyke said.

The program is anticipated to reach about 7,500 students next year. It will be covered mostly by federal reimbursements – about $2 million – and by about $350,000 from the state.

“This bill makes sure all eligible kids will have access to a healthy breakast, fully funding it for low income children in public schools.  By no longer charging low-income families, this will help school districts tackle the growing problem of families’ unpaid lunch and breakfast debt,” Van Dyke said.

NH Hunger Solutions worked with several partners in getting the bill passed including NH Legal Aid; NH New Futures; School Nutrition Association and the American Heart Association. Senator Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth) was an instrumental force behind the bill.

HB82 was introduced in January, 2019.  Nine hearings were held before the bill crossed over from the House to the NH Senate.  This process included review and discussion within the Senate’s education and finance committees.  Van Dyke testified the bill would positively impact local communities because by not having to pay for meals, families would have a little more money to purchase other needed goods and services.

The New Hampshire Senate voted to pass SB 82, which would make it possible through state and federal funds to ensure students who are eligible for reduced price school breakfast are offered breakfast at no cost.

“Every night, 40,000 New Hampshire children go to bed not knowing where their next meal is coming from,” said Sen. Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth), prime sponsor of SB 82. “We know breakfast is the most important meal of the day – and a healthy breakfast is key to increasing student academic performance and decreasing disciplinary and emotional problems. Today’s bipartisan vote will help schools provide free breakfast to students in need and make sure every student is able to focus on their studies.”

 

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National Organizations Urge Congress to Support Bipartisan Compromise in Senate Farm Bill

“Bill should help families in need, farmers, and protect the environment”

A broad array of national organizations today called on every member from both chambers of Congress to support the bipartisan compromise achieved in the Senate farm bill. The groups urged the leadership of the House and Senate agriculture committees to make hungry families, family farmers and environmental protection the top priorities in the final farm bill.

“Our organizations urge Congress to pass a farm bill that helps put food on the table for families in need, supports all farmers, and protects the environment. The bipartisan Senate farm bill earned 86 votes, a historic level of support. Like the Senate bill, the final farm bill should strengthen anti-hunger, conservation, and local food programs, support the next generation of diverse farmers, tighten farm subsidy loopholes, and reject anti-environmental riders. To achieve these priorities, Congress must commit to finalizing a farm bill that reflects the bipartisan compromise achieved in the Senate farm bill.”

Here is a copy of the supporting Farm Bill and the NH supporting organizations, including NH Hunger Solutions. We anticipate a vote within the week.

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No Kid Hungry & National Governors Association statistics about childhood hunger in the Granite State

The state of New Hampshire childhood hunger

Overview: Childhood Hunger in New Hampshire

Hunger affects children in New Hampshire. This hunger is felt by kids in cities, in the suburbs, and in rural areas. Food insecurity may look different in different homes. In some, the pantry may be completely bare. In others, families are making choices between paying the heating bill and buying groceries. In many, mom or dad is skipping dinner so kids can eat.

41,350 kids in New Hampshire struggle with hunger.

15.5% – one in every 7 kids is affected.

Federal and state nutrition programs are a critical solution. Across the nation, Governors who have prioritized these crucial programs have seen positive results, as more kids are able to get consistent, reliable access to the food they need.

School Breakfast – 40.9%

The school breakfast program is only reaching 40.9% of kids who are eating a free or reduced-price lunch in New Hampshire.ii

Summer Meals – 13.5%

The summer meals program is only reaching 13.5% of kids who are eating a free or reduced-price lunch in New Hampshire.

After School Meals – 10.7%

The after school meals program is only reaching 10.7% of kids who are eating a free or reduced-price lunch in New Hampshire.iv

Resources: Hunger Statistics

  1. Hunger: Feeding America, “Child Food Insecurity,” 2016.
  2. Breakfast: FRAC, “School Breakfast Scorecard,” 2017.
  3. Summer: FRAC, “Hunger Doesn’t Take A Vacation,” 2016.
  4. After School: No Kid Hungry, “Afterschool Meals History and Trends,” 2016.
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