The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
With school out for the summer, we must keep in mind how children get food outside of the cafeteria. Today is Child Nutrition Reauthorization National Call In Day, making it an especially timely opportunity to join anti-hunger advocates in supporting child nutrition programs.
In July 2013, only three million children ate subsidized summer lunches on an average day, compared to the 31 million children who received free or reduced school lunch during the school year. Food insecurity is a nationwide problem 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. When a child doesn’t have enough food to eat, they cannot focus as well in school, leading to lower performance. Studies also link growing up in poverty to obesity later on in life, further demonstrating how important it is for us to ensure that children do not go hungry.
Breakfast is similarly connected to benefits in the classroom: a majority of teachers see students paying better attention in class and having improved attendance. Yet, three out of four public school teachers say that students regularly come to school hungry. Thus, kids experiencing hunger are kept in the cycle of poverty, and it is hard for them to advance their education.
As Reform Jews, we have an obligation to advocate for those who are hungry. “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). Deuteronomy 15:7-10 elaborates on our commitment to helping the hunger person amongst us. The text states, “If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren…you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.” Our tradition is explicit in commanding that we feed the hungry, and we must work to ensure that our nation’s children do not suffer from a lack of food or nourishment.
In the months ahead, 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 to reallocate funding when the laws expire. One existing law in this policy area – the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – is set to expire this upcoming September.
Several important programs are currently authorized but will soon be up for review:
It is essential that these programs stay funded so that children can get the support that they need. We need to support child hunger programs that can help all students succeed. Though child nutrition programs like the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs already exist, these programs need to be strengthened. Urge your Members of Congress to fund important child nutrition programs today!