This week, inVeritas Creative Director Amy Kelley Bell joined her husband, Chef Matthew Bell, at the No Kid Hungry Summit held in Washington, DC. Amy learned about the progress No Kid Hungry has made both in Arkansas and nationwide with programs like Breakfast in the Classroom, Summer Meals and Cooking Matters.
It is no coincidence this summit was held at the same time Congress is looking at the Childhood Nutrition Reauthorization bill. The summer meals program, funded by CNR, was created in 1968 to help kids in need find a nutritious meal while school is out. This bill has not been changed in over 40 years. The current program operates with a one-size-fits-all approach, and this just does not work in many communities – especially those in rural areas.
Coach Larry Clark of Little Rock created a program called Life Skills for Youth 25 years ago. His program has been helped immensely by the No Kid Hungry summer meals program, through Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. Coach Clark is serving almost 400 children a day during the summer at his southwest Little Rock location. Recently he sponsored another feeding site in Brinkley – and he has found that due to the program’s current restrictions, he is not able to reach the majority of the children in Brinkley.
In rural areas, transportation challenges mean six out of seven kids who qualify for these summer meals are not receiving them. The money from CNR is allocated, but bureaucratic red tape is preventing sponsors like Coach Clark from reaching these children in rural areas.
With No Kid Hungry’s proposed changes to the Childhood Nutrition Reauthorization, organizations like the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance could work more easily with sponsors like Coach Clark to make sure a larger majority of children in rural areas are receiving meals during the summer months. Rather than requiring children in rural areas to come to a central, congregate feeding site, sponsors would have the ability to deliver meals to children in need.
At the No Kid Hungry Summit, Amy Bell, Chef Matt Bell and Coach Clark sat down with the Arkansas delegation to discuss the reauthorization of child nutrition programs, such as summer meals. Amy had a very personal connection to this program, as her mother was a former public school teacher. One year during a Christmas party at school, Amy’s mother found one of her students crying. She pulled him aside and asked why he was upset. He had just realized they were not going to be back in school for almost three weeks, and was terrified about the upcoming break because he did not receive regular meals at home. Amy’s mom packed him a care package with food items he could eat without having to cook himself and prayed this would help make his Christmas break an easier one.
If this child was stressed about how he would find nutritious meals over a three-week break, imagine what he faced during three-month summer breaks each year. These programs are vital to keeping America’s children engaged and focused in their education, even in the summer months. Public education is a vehicle we have given our children to unlock their potential. A significant number of children using the public education system are below the poverty line and count on meal programs as one of their only substantial and nutritious meals they will receive all day. If their education is the vehicle to unlocking their potential, meal programs are the fuel to get them to the finish line.
Amy Bell, Chef Matt Bell and Coach Clark had successful meetings with Senator John Boozman, Senator Tom Cotton and Congressman French Hill. They shared their personal stories for why it is important for them to reauthorize childhood nutrition programs like summer meals. Their voices alone made a small impact, but with your help we can make sure CNR will receive the full support of Arkansas’ delegation. Click here to send a letter to your member of Congress to share with them why the summer meals program is important for Arkansas’ children in need.
43% of low-income families go without enough food during the summer months. On average, families’ monthly food budgets increase by $300 during the summer break. Families below the poverty line are having to choose between paying the light bill and feeding their children. The good news is that Arkansas went from last to first in summer meals served from 2012 to 2013! Due to the hard work of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance in partnership with No Kid Hungry, Arkansas has become an example for other states in how to best implement programs such as Summer Meals, Breakfast in the Classroom and Cooking Matters.
Please consider donating your time or money to No Kid Hungry to help their efforts in implementing programs such as summer meals. Feeding hungry children in America is a problem we should be able to easily solve. With your help, we can make #NoKidHungry a reality.