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A Healthy, Nutritious, and Sweet New Year For All Children

A Healthy, Nutritious, and Sweet New Year For All Children

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is an opportunity for us to express our support for important government programs as we look towards the year ahead. In the next year, Congress will need to address issues regarding reauthorization for child nutrition programs. While the programs are permanently authorized, Congress uses the reauthorization process to review the laws and re allocate funding when the laws expire. One existing law in this policy area – the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – is set to expire on September 2015.

Several important programs are authorized under and will soon be up for review:

In addition to the upcoming child nutrition reauthorization, members of the Senate are proposing additional ideas for how the government can provide support to help hungry children, especially over the summer. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced S. 2527 The Summer Meals Act of 2014, which will enhance efforts for low income children to access the Summer Food Program.  In July 2013, nearly three million children ate summer lunch on an average day, and the program only reached one in seven of the low-income children who rely on school lunch during the school year.

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) also introduced S. 2366 The Stop Child Summer Hunger Act of 2014, which would provide low-income families with children an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card for the summer to purchase food and to be an additional source for children over the summer.

It is essential that these programs stay funded so that children can get the support that they need. According to 2013 data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), over 49 million Americans lived in a household that faced difficulty affording enough food in 2013. 15.8 million children struggled with food insecurity issues in the past year. Food insecurity is nationwide and has major impacts on children - previous USDA studies have shown that children who live in food-insecure households have increased risks of developmental and health problems. If children are in food insecure households, their abilities to concentrate, focus in school, and be productive members of society are greatly infringed.

Check out the RAC's infographic on economic justice and the High Holy Days and urge your Members of Congress to take action and fund child nutrition reauthorization.

Jewish tradition is explicit in the command that we feed the hungry and help eradicate hunger from our society. The Talmud explains that each Jewish community must establish a public fund to provide food for the hungry, and our sages explain that feeding the hungry is one of our most important responsibilities on earth: "When you are asked in the world to come, ‘What was your work?’ and you answer: ‘I fed the hungry,’ you will be told: ‘This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry’" (Midrash to Psalm 118:17).

As we prepare for the High Holy Days and the Yom Kippur fast, we are reminded that too many Americans struggle with hunger year-round. While we dip our apples in honey, we must remember our obligation to ensure that all children can have access to the foods that they need to have a healthy and sweet new year.

Published: 9/19/2014

Categories: Social Justice