US anti-poverty agency head urges child nutrition action

By agency reporter
October 22, 2009

The president of Bread for the World, a collective Christian voice urging US decision makers to end hunger both at home and globally, has welcomed the child nutrition priorities mentioned during a White House event hosted yesterday by the First Lady, Michelle Obama.

“As the Psalmist declared, ‘children are a heritage unto the Lord,’” said the Rev David Beckmann on 20 October 2009. “Among that heritage, more than 12 million kids here in our own country live in households that struggle to put enough food on the table.”

During the event, called 'Healthy Kids Fair', the US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, also highlighted opportunities to make progress in the forthcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization.

“President Barack Obama has committed to end child hunger by 2015,” said Bread for the World's Beckmann, “so I was pleased to hear terms such as ‘access’ and ‘affordability’ in describing the administration’s priorities for improving nutrition among our nation’s children.”

Earlier in the day, President Obama signed the Fiscal Year 2010 Agriculture Appropriations Bill into law. It provides funding for federal nutrition programmes and includes a package of new initiatives focused on child nutrition.

“Only 12 per cent of children receiving meal assistance during the school year receive food assistance in the summer,” Beckmann commented. “Children are often left to fend for themselves over the summer and holiday breaks. We strongly support the administration’s efforts to ensure access to nutrition assistance for eligible children.”

The appropriations bill also provided $5 million to fund the Hunger-Free Communities Program, which Bread for the World has been advocating since 2005. The programme provides funds to support community anti-hunger efforts.

“The Hunger-Free Communities Program complements the president’s child hunger goal,” Beckmann declared. “By focusing grants on groups working to reduce hunger among children, we can help states and communities reach the administration’s goal of ending child hunger in the US by 2015.”

He added that while hunger affects people of all ages, it is particularly devastating for children.

“Even short-term episodes of hunger can cause lasting damage to a child’s development,” the anti-poverty agency chief said. “Hunger puts children at risk for a range of cognitive, behavioural, emotional and physical problems. They are more likely to have trouble paying attention and concentrating, resulting in lower test scores, unruly behavior and increased absenteeism.”

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