Ending childhood hunger (Rep. Jared Polis)

Of the 19.5 million low-income kids receiving free or reduced price lunch in school each day, less than half (46%) receive breakfast and only 11% participate in the Summer Food Service Program.  Some of these children cannot participate because their community does not provide the program; others lack transportation to programs, or their families are unaware that they are eligible or that a program exists in their community.

President Obama set the ambitious goal of ending child hunger by 2015.  With significant targeted investments this goal is achievable, but it requires states’ commitment to expand children’s access to critical nutrition programs through public-private partnerships and innovative strategies.  That is why I have introduced H.R. 5480, the Ending Childhood Hunger Challenge Act, which would challenge states to end childhood hunger by 2015 and give them the necessary tools and resources to do so.  Specifically, my bill: 

- Encourages states to make progress against childhood hunger by implementing innovative strategies to improve program access.

- Creates a new competitive grant program to provide states with the tools and resources they need to carry out comprehensive and innovative plans to end childhood hunger by 2015.

- Supports demonstration projects to enhance benefits or provide innovative program delivery models in federal nutrition programs; increases access and participation in federal nutrition programs; and improves the coordination of federal, state, and community efforts to combat hunger. 

- Promotes projects that employ a comprehensive and innovative strategy to reduce childhood hunger; includes a public-private partnership that requires a collaborative planning process that results in a detailed project plan, specific performance goals and annual assessments to measure progress, and an independent evaluation of the impact of project activities on child food insecurity to hold states accountable for results. 

In addition to the federal policy changes and investments that Congress must undertake in the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, we need states to partner with the federal government and the private sector in fighting child hunger by strengthening collaboration and improving coordination.  My home state of Colorado is an excellent example of how such innovative partnerships can have a major impact.  

The Campaign to End Childhood Hunger is a statewide, public-private coalition working to eliminate child hunger in Colorado.  Launched by Governor Bill Ritter, Share Our Strength, and Hunger Free Colorado, the Campaign is working to ensure that all children have nutritious food at home, at school, and in their communities by increasing children’s access to two federally funded child nutrition programs: the School Breakfast Program and the Summer Food Service Program.  The Campaign works with schools and community members to implement breakfast serving methods that increase access, such as serving breakfast in the classroom and offering it free to all students, to meet the goal of increasing participation by 15,000 children this year.  Similarly, the Campaign is working with schools, local governments, faith and community-based partners to help start summer food programs, launch a summer food outreach strategy that will inform families where food is available, and assist existing programs to increase participation in the Summer Food Program by 10,000 children this summer. 

Hopefully, my bill will help more states replicate such innovative and effective partnerships across the nation to help reach our goal of ending childhood hunger.