Hunger in Our Schools: A Report and Solutions
Earlier this month we learned that 16.7 million children in 2011 lived in food insecure households. The Hunger in Our Schools report released in August by Share Our Strength shines a light on what public school teachers are witnessing in their classrooms regarding students and hunger.
According to Share Our Strength, “3 in 5 K-8 public school teachers say students come to school hungry.” The consequences of hunger on learning and the education process are tangible. When students arrive at school hungry they experience an inability to concentrate, leading to poor academic performance. They also experience physical ailments such as headaches, stomachaches, and lethargy. As one teacher states in the report, “Kids lack the ability to ignore those hunger pains. They’re concentrating on how soon until lunch rather than on learning to read.”
Raising the Minimum Wage
Last week Senator Tom Harkin (IA-D) and Representative George Miller (CA-D) introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012 (S. 2252/ H.R. 6211). This legislation would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.80 by 2014. The bill would also provide for annual increases to the rate in future years to keep pace with the rising cost of living—a key reform called “indexing.” Lastly, for the first time in 21 years, this piece of legislation would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from its current low-rate of $2.13 an hour to $6.85. This provision will be phased in over five years and will be fixed at 70% of the full minimum wage. The House bill already has 109 co-sponsors. The Senate bill just started accepting co-sponsors.
Why You Should Care About Categorical Eligibility
Last night, the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee passed its version of the Farm Bill (H.R. 6083) out of committee, 35-11. The Farm Bill proposal, introduced by Committee Chair Frank Lucas (OK-R) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (MN-D), creates an estimated $35 billion in savings over the next ten years. 45% of these cuts (or $16.5 billion) comes from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).
An Update on the Farm Bill
Earlier today the Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill (S. 3240), 64-35. The bill was approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee on a bi-partisan vote in April. This piece of legislation funds and regulates a large variety of policies ranging from nutrition and anti-hunger programs to environmental and conservation policy to crop insurance. Of most concern to the JCPA is a $4.5 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), which was included in the bill. If this cut goes into effect, 500,000 low-income households will lose an average of $90 in monthly SNAP benefits. Senator Gillibrand (NY-D) offered an amendment to the bill that would refund the $4.5 billion. Unfortunately this amendment failed 33-66.
Mapping the Meal Gap
Understanding the problem of hunger and poverty is the first important step in finding ways to lessen its impact. For the second year in a row, Feeding America has released county and Congressional district data through its Map the Meal Gap study, which helps to clearly define the problem and extent of hunger in our communities. As Feeding America writes, “By understanding the population in need, communities can better identify strategies for reaching the people who most need food assistance.”
Feeding America is the nation’s network of more than 200 food banks and the largest hunger-relief charity in the United States. They provide emergency food assistance to an estimated 37 million people in need annually.
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