President Obama released earlier this week his budget proposal for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. In the proposal, the President restores the SNAP cut made in 2010 to partially finance child nutrition reauthorization, extends the suspension of time limits for certain working-age adults without dependents, and provides strong support for the federal nutrition programs and the anticipated growth in those programs. FRAC is applauding the President for including these important provisions. Stay tuned to FRAC’s website for ongoing coverage of the budget process.
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FRAC kicked off 2011 with the release of our annual school breakfast reports, the School Breakfast Scorecard (pdf) and School Breakfast in America’s Big Cities (pdf). The Scorecard charts participation at the national and state level, while the Breakfast in America’s Big Cities report looks at participation and trends in 29 urban school districts.
Although the demand for school meals (both breakfast and lunch) increased as a result of the deepening recession, the growth in the breakfast program in the 2009-2010 school year (compared to 2008-2009) continued to be greater, proportionally, than the growth in school lunch. Still, only 47 low-income children ate breakfast for every 100 that ate lunch.
Higher participation could be achieved if more schools adopted ways to get breakfast out of the cafeteria and in front of hungry children. Breakfast in America’s Big Cities found that higher rates of breakfast participation were achieved by school districts that offered breakfast free to all students (also known as universal breakfast), served breakfast in the classroom at the start of the school day rather than in the cafeteria, or offered “grab and go” breakfasts from carts in the hallway. In fact, of the top ten urban school districts profiled in the report, all provide universal free breakfast throughout their district, and all but two have large-scale in-classroom breakfast programs.
To accelerate participation growth, FRAC urged states and school districts to put breakfast in the classroom programs on a fast track to implementation. FRAC also urged states to look at their application processes for school meals and to conduct frequent outreach throughout the school year.
Other facts from the reports include:
• Nationally, breakfast participation grew to include 9.4 million children during the 2009-2010 school year, an increase of 663,000 children over the previous school year – and the largest increase since FRAC began tracking participation in 1991.
• Over the past two school years, participation in breakfast grew by nearly 1.2 million low-income children.
• The 2009-2010 school year also saw the largest increase in lunch participation recorded by FRAC; the program reached nearly 20 million low-income children on an average school day.
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The release of FRAC’s two breakfast reports coincided with an announcement about a major new breakfast initiative from the Walmart Foundation and Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom -- FRAC, the National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation, the National Education Association Health Information Network, and the School Nutrition Foundation. Through the initiative, Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom aim to increase breakfast consumption among children by helping five school districts create and maintain breakfast in the classroom programs.
The five school districts chosen to implement the program are: Dallas Independent School District, Texas; Little Rock School District, Arkansas; Memphis City Schools, Tennessee; Orange County Public Schools, Florida (including Orlando); and Prince George’s County Public Schools, Maryland (outside Washington, DC).
To release the reports and announce the new initiative, FRAC President Jim Weill was joined by NAESP President Barbara A. Chester and Walmart Foundation President Margaret McKenna on a press call with reporters.
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“Breakfast is about so much more than food – it sets the tone for entire diet and improves academic performance. Through the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, we are leveraging school breakfast as another teaching opportunity in the school day to educate kids about nutrient-rich foods.”
– Jean Ragalie, RD, President, National Dairy Council
Q: Where were you before your time at FRAC and how has that shaped your focus here?
I had worked in and around nonprofit child health organizations for 20 years, and my whole career has been focused on public health and anti-poverty programs. I spent many years working with Head Start programs, where I oversaw the use of the CACFP nutrition program in a large urban area, and provided training and technical assistance to Head Start staff on a range of nutrition, education and health issues. That experience sparked my interest in improving the use of federal programs that can really make a difference.
Q: What interests you about school meals?
This is really a fascinating time for school nutrition, as there’s a tremendous amount of public and policymaker attention focused on addressing the paradox of hunger and obesity. We have a real opportunity to realize significant progress for low-income kids by improving and expanding school lunch and breakfast.
Q: What are some of the key challenges you’ve overcome in your work – or achievements of which you’re most proud?
I’m most proud of how promotion of in-classroom breakfast has grown during my time at FRAC. When I first came, it was discussed as a best practice – but now we’ve reached a point where we have experiences in school districts across the country and can highlight their implementation of the program to strengthen the case that it’s really the best way to serve breakfast.
It’s also been such a pleasure to work with our great network of advocates – to support their work with schools and districts, to see the barriers they’ve overcome and to witness the progress they’ve made in their communities.
Q: With all the attention on breakfast participation, do you think we're at a tipping point for school breakfast and breakfast in the classroom?
There’s been a great deal of attention regarding school breakfast recently. We’ve seen slow but steady progress, and we need to continue to push. Still, less than half the low-income children that eat lunch each day at school also are eating breakfast. We need to make free, convenient and healthy school meals available during school hours – and we especially need to ensure schools in low-income areas are using the program and reaching their students with these meals. Making breakfast a normal part of going to school helps children learn that breakfast is a part of good eating habits and can make a real difference for many families. Lots of families – not just low-income families – struggle with breakfast because of tight schedules and the morning rush, as well as a lack of resources. Making breakfast more accessible at school is a key way to improve kids’ nutrition, learning and health, in addition to helping reduce obesity.
Q: You get to visit a lot of schools through your field work. Could you share with us some highlights of that work?
I love going on school visits. It always amazes me – the complexity of each school environment, and how different each school is in terms of its staff, principals, and overall atmosphere. School visits also are the clearest way to see that children really love in-classroom breakfast.
When I visit schools serving breakfast in the cafeteria, it’s incredible how chaotic and loud it can be. Many schools only have one monitor for 50 or 100 children and even use bullhorns to try to manage the kids. Once you then step into a classroom serving in-classroom breakfast, it’s easy to see why kids love the quiet of the classroom as opposed to the hustle and craziness of the cafeteria. Children are so much calmer and are able to eat while getting organized, taking attendance and listening to morning announcements. They are really enthusiastic about the program and are excited to talk about the foods they like and the foods they don’t. Overall, it’s incredibly rewarding to see the program in action -- to see how simple it can be in practice, but how much of a difference it makes.
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“For the first time in our district's history, we have the opportunity to ensure that every child at least has breakfast,” said Chicago Board of Education President Mary Richardson-Lowry about the decision of the school board to make breakfast in the classroom mandatory in all Chicago public elementary schools. In January, the district started to phase in the program in an additional 299 elementary schools – the majority of which have at least 80 percent of their students qualifying for free and reduced-price meals – joining the 200 schools that already have implemented the program.
This announcement stems from hard work that began in 2008 when FRAC partnered with the USDA Regional Office, school district food services staff and local anti-hunger advocates to intensify breakfast participation efforts. During the 2007-2008 school year, only one elementary school in the Chicago Public School system had successfully implemented the breakfast in the classroom model. This school served as a powerful model for replication throughout the district, paving the way for this recent expansion.
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Maryland Hunger Solutions Director Cathy Demeroto challenged Maryland leaders to join her in taking the Food Stamp Challenge, and nearly 90 people accepted during the week of January 24 to 31. Participants sent in their photos, videos, and stories to Maryland Hunger Solutions’ Food Stamp Challenge Diary.
Demeroto started her Challenge week by shopping with Maryland Secretary of Aging Gloria Gary Lawlah at a Giant Store in Marlow Heights, Md., and interviewed Delegates Ana Sol Gutierrez (18th District) and Mary Washington (43rd District), and Senator Bill Ferguson (46th District) about their experiences on the Challenge.
Other participants in the Maryland Challenge included Catholic Charities Executive Director Bill McCarthy, representatives from the Governor’s Office and from the Governor’s Office for Children, the Maryland Department of Human Resources, the Maryland State Department of Education, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, local Department of Social Services offices, and Marylanders from across the state.
The guidelines for the Challenge are simple: use the average food stamp benefit for an individual – $30 a week in Maryland – as the total budget for groceries for seven days. Over the past few years, Food Stamp Challenges have occurred in a number of states, with Members of Congress, governors, state officials, journalists and other community leaders taking the Challenge to learn firsthand what it is like to try to make ends meet on the average food stamp benefit. FRAC has supported groups across the country with their Food Stamp Challenges, and developed a toolkit to assist Challenge takers.
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“Strategies to Combat Childhood Hunger in Four U.S. Cities: Boston, New Haven, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.,” a report recently released by the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) in partnership with Sodexo, notes that D.C. Hunger Solutions “has played major roles in most of the major anti-hunger initiatives that have been undertaken in the District over the past several years.”
For the past twenty-five years, USCM has published annual reports on the status of hunger and homelessness in America. To supplement this year’s report, it decided to focus on four cities that had demonstrated success in the field of anti-hunger work and whose programs had the potential to become national models for other cities. The report chronicles the success of D.C. Hunger Solutions, along with other area partners, in helping tens of thousands of District residents through improvements in the federal nutrition programs. Highlights include D.C. Hunger Solutions’ work to increase participation in summer food, to bring the Afterschool Meal Program to the District, to document and address the District’s “grocery gap,” and to shape and promote the recent passage of the Healthy Schools Act.
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December’s passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act heralded the start of the next phase for Child Nutrition Reauthorization – implementing the provisions included in the Act. To help advocates and state officials get started, FRAC launched a series of webinars aimed at “Putting the Act into Action.”
The response has been overwhelming, with nearly 900 participants for the first webinar in the series, hundreds for each of the next four, and more than 900 for the sixth. USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon joined FRAC in the first to give an overview of the changes included in the Act. Subsequent webinars have focused on specific aspects of the new law, including Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) access provisions for child care nutrition, the new nationwide Afterschool Meal Program, summer food, access to school meals, and nutrition improvements in schools.
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Before the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act (the child nutrition reauthorization bill) recently expanded the Afterschool Meal Program to all 50 states, D.C. was one of only 14 states that could operate the program. Its rapid growth is being heralded as a national model for communities that are now seeking to implement the program. In just its first year, the program expanded to more than 127 sites throughout Washington, D.C. and now serves more than 9,600 children and teens supper each day.
A good portion of the city’s success has been the ability of D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) to implement the program effectively in such a short timeframe. Of its 123 schools, 99 are participating in the program and serving suppers to students. In fact, D.C. Public Schools has seen an increase of more than 2,000 in the number of children participating in its afterschool enrichment programs this school year – an increase it attributes to the addition of suppers.
Advocacy and outreach efforts helped pave the way. D.C. Hunger Solutions, a long-time champion of the program, worked with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE, which oversees the new program), DCPS, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust, and the Robert Wood Johnson Healthy Kids Healthy Communities team to ensure a successful roll-out. D.C. Hunger Solutions also informed afterschool providers directly about the new program, its benefits, and how to participate.
For more information on rolling out afterschool meals in all states, watch the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Webinar: What You Need to Know about Afterschool Meals.
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In just a few weeks, anti-hunger advocates will be gathering in Washington, D.C. for the 2011 National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference (March 6 – 8). The annual conference—hosted by FRAC and Feeding America in conjunction with the National CACFP Forum—draws more than 500 people and is the preeminent anti-hunger policy conference nationwide, focusing on subjects that directly affect the anti-hunger community and proponents of healthy eating among low-income people.
Sessions will cover topics such as implementing the recently passed Child Nutrition Reauthorization act; preparing for the upcoming Farm Bill (particularly the SNAP title); the interactions among hunger, poverty and obesity; and the new political landscape.
This year’s conference also will feature a USDA listening session on child nutrition reauthorization implementation. A full list of conference workshops and registration details are available on the policy conference website.
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Working Assets/CREDO has designated FRAC as one of only eight U.S. nonprofits eligible in 2011 for contributions through its Economic and Social Justice donation pool. Here’s how it works: Every time a CREDO member makes a cell phone or long distance call or uses his or her Working Assets credit card, the company contributes a percentage of the charges to its donation pool. Members then decide how much of the total pool each nonprofit receives by voting for their favorite cause or causes online. Since 1985, CREDO members have generated more than $65 million for nonprofit groups nationwide. CREDO members can vote for FRAC at credomobile.com/vote.
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A new report by FRAC finds that the number of SNAP/Food Stamp participants in American cities increased an average of 18.6 percentMay 2009 to May 2010, according to a survey of 22 large U.S. cities. As of May 2010 in the 22 urban areas, approximately 7.8 million people were receiving SNAP/Food Stamps. This was an increase of 1.3 million individuals from the previous May, demonstrating the depth and breadth of the recession.
There was considerable variation, however, among surveyed cities, both on rates of caseload increases in 2009-2010 and on the degree to which cities were serving needy residents prior to the deepening of the recession. In December 2008, 76 percent of eligible people in the surveyed cities participated in the program; participation rates, however, ranged widely, from below 50 percent in San Diego and Denver to more than 90 percent in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Louisville, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Miami.
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Three Quick Reads
• January marked the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s first Executive Order which led to the creation of a pilot Food Stamp Program in West Virginia. Mr. and Mrs. Alderson Muncy of Paynesville, West Virginia, were the first food stamp recipients on May 29, 1961. By January 1964, the pilot programs had expanded from eight areas to 43 (40 counties; Detroit, Michigan; St. Louis, Missouri; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) in 22 states with 380,000 participants.
• Jay Matthews, an education columnist for The Washington Post, blogs about the positive association between breakfast and learning.
• Al Lubrano, reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, wraps up his series about hunger in Philadelphia’s First Congressional District. FRAC’s 2008-2009 food hardship report found this district to be the second hungriest in the nation.
New Faces at FRAC
FRAC is pleased to welcome several new staff members. Lindsey Barnett joins our national office as a SNAP/Food Stamp Policy and Outreach Fellow. Two AmeriCorps/VISTA Members have joined FRAC: Crissa Nelson will be working with D.C. Hunger Solutions, and Kate Ronan will be working with Maryland Hunger Solutions. Also in Maryland, we’re pleased to welcome Aaron Kennedy and Sue Thompson, who will be working to expand the School Breakfast Program in six Maryland counties and Baltimore City.
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