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National School Breakfast Week

This week is National School Breakfast Week, spotlighting the benefits of school breakfast for kids across the country.

The School Breakfast Program (SBP) is designed to give students affordable access to food at the start of each school day, which promotes better learning outcomes as well as happier, healthier kids. Fortunately, like school lunches, school breakfast is heavily subsidized or free for students from low-income families.

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But even as we celebrate this important federal program, we cannot help but take note of troubling recommendations coming from the House of Representatives.

On January 23rd a bill titled “Choices in Education Act of 2017” was introduced in the United States House of Representatives. The first half of this bill (H.R.610) repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, replacing it with an educational voucher program.

As introduced, Title II of the bill – the “No Kid Hungry Act” – also repeals a 2012 rule established by the USDA that enforces nutritional standards for the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. These standards – designed to support student health through better, more balanced nutrition – require schools to offer more fruits & vegetables, whole grains, and low or fat-free milk while limiting the amount of sodium, saturated fats, and trans fats in school meals. The standards also provide guidelines for meeting the caloric needs of students at different ages and stages of development.

At the St. Louis Area Foodbank, 31% of the people we serve are children, 95% of whom participate in the National School Lunch Program. These students rely on food from school to make up for shortfalls at home, which puts schools in a unique position to provide for kids’ nutritional needs.

According to a 2016 report from The Pew Charitable Trusts, “[s]tudies of schools in three states—Connecticut, Texas, and Washington—show that under the updated standards, children’s eating habits are improving […] Students of all ages are choosing lunches higher in nutritional quality and lower in calories per gram and consuming more fruits and larger shares of their entrees and vegetables.”

This is great and important news for children suffering from food insecurity, but this progress might be short lived if nutritional standards are rolled back.

The National School Lunch Program is one of the country’s most important safety net programs, one that helps kids who might otherwise face serious nutritional deficits in adolescence and the many long term consequences of hunger as adults.

While H.R.610 has only recently been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and while it is far too soon to tell if this bill will rouse much support in the House or Senate, it does raise serious questions about how we support the most vulnerable kids in our communities.

Hunger – especially child hunger – is a bi-partisan issue that demands our best thinking and effort. We will continue to follow this bill and others concerning the hunger safety-net and child nutrition in the weeks and months to come. We invite you to join us.

Check back often for more legislative updates as we work together to fight hunger in our community.

Signing-On for Strong Policy

2017 brings with it enormous change to the political landscape, from a new president and Congress to new state and local leadership. While so much change can feel disruptive and unpredictable, it also opens up abundant opportunities for advocacy on behalf of the people we serve and the causes we stand behind. That’s why the Foodbank is busy at work, forging relationships with our new leadership and supporting the anti-hunger programs – like SNAP, CSFP, and TEFAP – upon which so many Americans rely.

This month we have already signed on to a letter directed to Illinois’ leadership, joining over 120 of our partners within and beyond our service area to support the programs and legislation we know effectively fight hunger across the country.

As a signee of this letter, we are specifically asking Illinois’ 2 senators and 18 representatives to strengthen federal nutrition programs and protect them against cuts. We are also offering our help in addressing hunger statewide and across the nation.

The St. Louis Area Foodbank has signed this letter because we know the programs it defends work – assisting families struggling to put food on the table, promoting health, helping kids succeed in school, supporting farmers, and boosting local economies.

We have also signed because we believe making our voice heard and working with our elected officials is an essential way forward in the fight against hunger.

Check out the letter here.

And check back often for more news, updates, and ways to make a difference as a hunger advocate!

Call Congress About Food Donation Tax Deductions

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There are only a few days left for Congress to finish their work for the year, and we have an important opportunity to pass tax legislation that would bring billions of meals into our network.

Right now, Congress is working on a tax package that would renew or make permanent several expiring tax provisions.  We need your voice to make sure the food donation tax deduction is included in that final package.

We are joining nonprofits from around the country and calling Congress today to convince them to expand and make permanent the food donation tax deduction and other charitable tax incentives.  Will you join us?

Call Congress Today!
Calling Congress is easy.  Here’s how:

  1. Just dial our toll free number, (888) 398-8702, listen to the pre-recorded message and enter your zip code when prompted.
  2. Once you are connected to your first senator, state that you are a constituent, and give your name and the town you are calling from.
  3. Let them know you are calling about tax policy and deliver this important message:

As your constituent and supporter/employee of the St. Louis Area Foodbank, I am calling you to urge you to include the America Gives More Act charitable tax incentives in the final tax package currently being negotiated in Congress.  Feeding America food banks are providing food for 46.5 million Americans a year and need more food to meet the need.  At the same time, over 70 billion pounds of food are wasted each year here in America.  You can help us get more food to those in need by passing charitable giving tax incentives immediately.

Be sure to dial back in and speak with both of your senators and your representative.

Thank you for taking the time to support the St. Louis Area Foodbank!

Time is Ticking: Call Congress TODAY

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It’s time to take a stand. Time is running out to pass a child nutrition bill, so we are organizing advocates across the country to turn up the heat on Congress. 

Congress only addresses child nutrition programs once every five years, and we can’t miss this opportunity to improve the programs that help our nation’s kids get the nutritious food they need to thrive.  ​

It’s time for Congress to get to work. Join us in urging Congress to pass a strong child nutrition bill for our kids!

Call Congress Today! Here’s how:

    1. Dial our toll free number, (888) 398-8702 and listen to the pre-recorded message.
    2. Connect to your Senator first and enter your zip code.
    3. Once you are connected to your first Senator, state that you are a constituent and give your name and the town you are calling from.
    4. Let them know you are calling about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization and deliver this important message:

Time is running out to pass a strong child nutrition bill.  Too many kids in our community are not getting the nutritious food they need, and Congress can’t let the opportunity to improve these programs go by. These programs have a history of strong bi-partisan support. I urge you to pass a strong child nutrition bill this year that strengthens the programs so children have the fuel they need to grow up healthy and succeed. 

Be sure to dial back in so you talk to both of your Senators and your Representative.

Help us spread the word by sharing and posting on social media using #CNR2015​

We Need Your Voice!

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The current Child Nutrition Reauthorization expires on September 30 and we need to make sure Congress knows that passing a strong child nutrition bill that strengthens programs and reaches more kids must be a priority.

You can help by participating in our national call in day on Tuesday, September 15, and joining thousands of supporters from across the country to urge Congress to pass a strong child nutrition bill and ensure no child in America goes hungry.

Let’s show Congress that it’s time to end child hunger in America. 

 Calling Congress is easy. Here’s how:

  1. Dial our toll free number, (888) 398-8702, listen to the pre-recorded message and enter your zip code when prompted.
  2. Once you are connected to your first Member of Congress, state that you are a constituent, and give your name and the town you are calling from. (Please note the separate messages below).
  3. Senators – deliver this important message:
    As your constituent and supporter of the St. Louis Area Foodbank, please co-sponsor the Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act (S. 1966) and the Summer Meals Act (S. 613).
  4. Representative – deliver this important message: As your constituent and supporter of the St. Louis Area Foodbank,  I would like to see Congress pass a child nutrition bill that includes these three priorities. Streamline regulations for summer and after school meals. A summer EBT program to help families when school is out. A non-congregate meal option so program operators like food banks can reach kids who can’t access summer meal sites.
  5.  Be sure to dial back in and speak with your senator and your representative. Please note: Senator Blunt (MO) and Senator Kirk (IL) are already co-sponsoring this legislation. 

Double your impact in the Senate by sending an email

The Foodbank Goes to Washington

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At the end of June I packed my bags and headed to DC to represent the Foodbank and the hundreds of thousands of people we serve everyday. This was my second trip to DC as the St. Louis Area Foodbank’s Advocacy Coordinator, a position that was created in early 2014. Food banks around the US are stepping up their advocacy presence as we prepare to take our role in fighting hunger to the next level.

We work continuously with our partner, Feeding America, to connect with legislators and influence legislation that will directly impact the people we serve. As many of our friends know, the Foodbank covers 26 counties in Missouri and Illinois, which emcompasses 12 Members of Congress in DC. For my July 1, 2015 visit I was fortunate to meet with a total of eight staff members specializing in Agriculture legislation.

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The Visits

The day was packed with visits to both Senator McCaskill and Blunt’s offices (MO), as well as both Illinois Senators Durbin and Kirk. Rounding out the day I met with staff from Representatives Clay (MO-1), Davis (IL-13), Smith (MO-8) and Bost (IL-12).

Our asks were simple:

1) Support a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization that allows increased access to summer feeding programs for thousands of kids who are currently missing out on healthy, nutritious foods during the summer.

2) Make the America Gives More Act permanent, allowing small farmers, small businesses and restaurants to donate products, especially produce to the Foodbank.

The visits went great and the support for the upcoming CNR was very strong. Senator Durbin and Senator Kirk are very involved in the current process and will be working with our office over the next month to gather personal stories and information that will encourage change. Representative Bost and Davis have direct impact in their District where the Foodbank is currently sponsoring summer feeding sites. Representatives Clay and Smith were very understanding and shocked to see evidence that their district’s children are struggling and more flexible options for reaching kids are needed. And both Senators of Missouri, McCaskill and Blunt, were very receptive of information in Missouri and our desperate need for more summer feeding sites in rural areas.

We feel confident and lucky that information regarding the CNR was received so well and look forward to action on the Hill over the next few weeks – but we can’t stop now! The goal of food banks around the US is to bring awareness to the issue of hunger and how that directly affects people in our Member’s districts. Although I have the ability to travel to DC and meet with Members of Congress and their staff, it is truly the voice of their constituents that makes the largest impact.

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Your Turn:

I, along with advocacy coordinators around the US, have planted the seed, but now we need you to bring that message home. I strongly encourage you to contact your Members of Congress and remind them that children are the future and it is our duty to make sure they are taken care of and fully equipped for that future. Feeding children may seem simple enough, but the long-term impact it has is crucial.

Please take a moment to contact your Member of Congress regarding the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization.

Send an email

Find your representative and call or write

Additional information regarding the 2015 Child Nutrition Reauthorization

 

Michelle KnightAdvocacy Coordinator

Call Congress About Child Nutrition

On September 30, the child nutrition bill will expire, and we need your help to convince Congress to get to work and make passing a strong child nutrition bill that invests in our nation’s children a priority.

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Help us spur Congress to action and strengthen child nutrition programs by calling today and spreading the word through social media.

 Calling Congress is easy. Here’s how:

  1. Dial our toll free number, (888) 398-8702, listen to the pre-recorded message and enter your zip code when prompted.
  2. Once you are connected to your House member, state that you are a constituent, and give your name and the town you are calling from.
  3. Let them know you are calling about Child Nutrition Reauthorization and deliver this important message:
    As your constituent and supporter of the St. Louis Area Foodbank, I’m calling you today about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Too many kids in our community are not getting the food they need, particularly during the summer months when school is out.

    As my Member of Congress, you can do something about it. 
    I urge you to pass a strong child nutrition bill that provides more options to get food to kids that need our help by providing flexibility in operating the Summer Food Service Program and streamlining program requirements for providers that operate both afterschool and summer meal programs.
  4.  Be sure to dial back in and speak with both of your senators and your representative.

Double your impact by sending an email

Older Americans Act

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1 in 12 Seniors is Going Hungry

Often times when we think of the face of hunger we think of the nearly 16 million children that live in food insecure households – we don’t often think of the elderly. The truth is that more than 5.3 million senior citizens are affected by hunger, that is 1 in 12.

With the number of older adults projected to increase by 35 percent over the next decade, nutrition programs targeted at seniors will be critical to safeguarding the health of this vulnerable population. Many of these older americans have worked their entire lives to provide for their families, are retired, volunteer their time and never expected that at this stage of their lives they would be unsure of where their next meal is coming from.

Older Americans don’t often ask for help.

At the St. Louis Area Foodbank we see this first hand. We receive phone calls, when they have nowhere else to turn, regarding signing up for SNAP benefits. And that is only a handful; many households may not even realize they qualify for benefits. At local food fairs we meet older american volunteers who assist us for hours loading pounds of food into hundreds of cars only to end their day driving through the same line to stock their own cupboards.

The sad truth is that in our 26-county service territory, of Missouri and Illinois, 14% of the people we serve are age 60 or older. Many of these individuals, at this stage of their life, are having to choose between paying for food or buying essential medicines. In fact, 71% of the people we serve have had to make that choice in the last year.

We must urge our members of Congress to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA) as it celebrates it’s 50th year.

The Older Americans Act funds critical services that keep older adults healthy and independent, and provide needed support for seniors facing food insecurity.

Join us in urging Congress to reauthorize the Older Americans Act

Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)

A program implemented by the St. Louis Area Foodbank, is a commodity-based program, providing nutritionally-balanced, shelf-stable food packages to 8,800 in seven counties in Missouri and two in Illinois. Last year the St. Louis Area Foodbank distributed over 103,300 CSFP boxes to low-income seniors.

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CSFP is the only USDA nutrition program that provides monthly food assistance specially targeted at low-income seniors. CSFP must be funded each year through the annual federal appropriations process and can only serve as many eligible people as funding allows. As a result, CSFP only operates in 46 states and is unable to serve all eligible seniors in these states.Congress has a duty to provide adequate funding to expand CSFP nationwide to serve all eligible seniors.

Join us in urging Congress to reauthorize the Older Americans Act

May is Older Americans Month

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What is Older Americans Month, Anyway?

In 1963 John F. Kennedy declared May to be Senior’s Month as a way to acknowledge the accomplishments of our past and present older citizens. President Lyndon Johnson signed Older American’s Month into law in 1965.

This year’s theme is Get into the Act to encourage healthy aging and community involvement for seniors.

Healthy Eating = Healthy Aging

At the St. Louis Area Foodbank, we are doing our best to better serve the community of low-income seniors by partnering with the State of Missouri and Illinois as part of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP).

This program provides a nutritious box of food every month to qualifying seniors who are 60 and older and who meet the income requirements set by the USDA.  We are excited to be able to provide this service to over 8,800 seniors in seven counties in Missouri and two in Illinois.

Cardinal Ritter Senior Services, just one of the many agencies who distribute the CSFP boxes, had this to say about the program:

“For our low-income senior adults living in our affordable housing apartments, the monthly CSFP food box is such a blessing.  It is so beneficial in providing our residents with something extra that allows them to stretch their limited budgets.  And as the items they receive month-to-month change, it provides some variety in their diet, as well.  We feel very fortunate that we are able to partner with the St. Louis Area Foodbank in providing this program to our residents.”

More Care to Share

In addition to CSFP, we proudly provide SNAP (food stamp) application assistance to the people living in the St. Louis Area Foodbank’s 26-county service territory.

We help with filling out and submitting the application, answer questions about the program, and provide follow-up assistance as well. This is extremely important, given only one third of eligible seniors receive SNAP benefits.

Suzi Seeker provides this service in Missouri where eight percent of seniors are living in poverty and Andrea Hale in Illinois where eleven percent are living in poverty as well.

Please join us at the Foodbank in celebrating our older friends and neighbors!

If you’d like to Get into the Act and volunteer with the St. Louis Area Foodbank, click here to sign up today.


Suzi

Suzi Seeker
Missouri CSFP/SNAP Coordinator, St. Louis Area Foodbank

Call Congress Today!

Help us generate phone calls to the House and Senate with a clear message- protect the programs that help us fight hunger!

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This week, the House and Senate are expected to vote on budget resolutions that would attempt to balance the budget in 10 years.

While these resolutions are non-binding, we are concerned that they will be used to draft legislation that would balance the budget on the backs of low-income Americans by cutting the hunger-relief programs that advance our mission.

We believe it is necessary to send a strong message early in this process and let them know that cutting programs that our families rely on is the wrong way to balance the budget.  Read more