For Lower-Income Students, Snow Days Can Be Hungry Days

For many Americans it’s been a harsh, disruptive winter, from the country’s Northern edges to the Deep South.

When cold snaps and blizzards shutter schools, kids miss more than their daily lessons. Some miss out on the day’s nutritious meal as well.

This recently became apparent to school administrators in rural Iowa, where extreme cold delayed openings two days in a row at Laurens-Marathon Community School, where 59 percent of students who eat school lunch qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

On the first day, some students arrived on empty stomachs because parents thought breakfast would still be served that day.

“Two students were found in our lunchroom waiting to be fed,” says Meredith Allen, a teacher at the school. “Several co-workers had stockpiles of food,” but it wasn’t enough.

On the second day, after the standard text alert about the delay went out, a second alert followed. This one clarified that breakfast would not be served. During late-start mornings, the school nurse often sees quite a few kids with hunger-related stomachaches, says Allen.

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New Study Reveals Increased Health Problems For Seniors At Risk Of Hunger

ALEXANDRIA, VA– The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH) today released a study entitled The Health Consequences of Senior Hunger in the United States: Evidence from the 1999-2010 NHANES. Commissioned by NFESH and conducted by Dr. James P. Ziliak of the University of Kentucky and Dr. Craig Gundersen of the University of Illinois, this original research examines the correlation between food insecurity and negative health consequences among individuals age 60 and older in the United States.

The study examines how trends in health and nutrition outcomes among food secure and food insecure seniors have changed over the past decade. The findings reveal that food insecure seniors “were at higher risk of experiencing negative nutrition and health consequences than food secure seniors.” Specifically, seniors at risk of hunger were:

  • 50 percent more likely to be diabetic
  • Twice as likely to report fair or poor general health
  • Three times more likely to suffer from depression
  • 30 percent more likely to report at least one activities of daily living (ADL) limitation
  • 14 percent more likely to have high blood pressure
  • Nearly 60 percent more likely to have congestive heart failure or experienced a heart attack
  • Twice as likely to report having gum disease or have asthma

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DeSoto students to learn about sustainable farming through aquaponics

The DeSoto Independent School District wants students to learn by watching scientific principles come to life. They’re also providing a lesson in sustainability after installing an aquaponics system last month.

Teresa Angeles, principal at The Meadows Elementary in DeSoto, said that the school received a grant from the American Heart Association to build a community garden. They decided to add an aquaponics system as well when they learned that an aquaponics expert was based in DeSoto.

“It gives us an opportunity to teach STEM curriculum through gardening” said Angeles, referring to a national campaign to promote learning in science, technology, engineering and math. “It was the perfect fit.”

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Farm Bill Reflects Shifting American Menu and a Senator’s Persistent Tilling

WASHINGTON — The farm bill signed by President Obama last month was at first glance the usual boon for soybean growers, catfish farmers and their ilk. But closer examination reveals that the nation’s agriculture policy is increasingly more whole grain than white bread.

Within the bill is a significant shift in the types of farmers who are now benefiting from taxpayer dollars, reflecting a decade of changing eating habits and cultural dispositions among American consumers. Organic farmers, fruit growers and hemp producers all did well in the new bill. An emphasis on locally grown, healthful foods appeals to a broad base of their constituents, members of both major parties said.

“There is nothing hotter than farm to table,” said Representative Bill Huizenga, a Michigan Republican from a district of vast cherry orchards.

While traditional commodities subsidies were cut by more than 30 percent to $23 billion over 10 years, funding for fruits and vegetables and organic programs increased by more than 50 percent over the same period, to about $3 billion.

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Texas Students, Schools and Districts to Benefit from New Law on School Breakfast

AUSTIN, TEXAS—As schools across the country commemorate National School Breakfast Week, Texas public schools are actively working to provide school breakfast to more students in need thanks to a new law passed in 2013.

Breakfast for all is a win-win for students and schools. Studies show that students who are well fed participate more in class and earn higher grades, and because schools are reimbursed based on the number of meals served, higher student participation means more money for the program. This week, the Center for Public Policy Priorities released “Making Breakfast Big in Texas,” a resource for anyone interested in ways that Texas schools can serve breakfast to all their students while maximizing revenue.

“In Texas, one in five children is at risk of going hungry, and serving breakfast at school means more children can enjoy a healthy meal and be ready to learn, and parents who are struggling to make ends meet don’t have to worry that their child is going hungry until lunchtime,” said Rachel Cooper, senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “Serving breakfast is a win-win for everyone.”

A coalition of food and nutrition advocacy groups, including CPPP, the Texas Food Bank Network and Children at Risk, worked with lawmakers during the 2013 legislative session to pass the breakfast expansion bill. Senate Bill 376, authored by state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., gives schools with more than 80 percent of students who qualify for free and reduce priced lunch the opportunity to serve free breakfast to every student every day.  Groups are now working to answer questions and ensure school districts and administrators get the most out of the new law. “The implementation of SB 376 is essential in closing the gap of hungry children,” said Dr. Robert Sanborn, CEO of Children at Risk.

“Expanding school breakfast participation in Texas schools is a proven tool to reduce the risk of hunger and boost academic outcomes for hundreds of thousands of low-income students,” said Celia Cole, CEO of the Texas Food Bank Network. “We encourage every Texas school to take advantage of this opportunity to ensure every Texas child starts the school day nourished and ready to learn.”

The new law takes effect this fall. Visit for more resources.

“…schools are successfully meeting the new school meal standards, and participation is up in many areas of the country…we are seeing great progress in areas such as Dallas…”

Given that many children today eat two meals a day at school, it’s vital that we make every effort to ensure that they have access to the healthy foods they need and the knowledge to make healthy choices. The proposed school wellness policy guidelines and the expansion of community eligibility announced by First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the White House this week mark important steps forward.

We are so excited to see all the great progress that is being made in schools today.  Over 90 percent of schools are successfully meeting the new school meal standards, and participation is up in many areas of the country. As more schools, parents, and children continue to embrace healthier school meals, we are seeing great progress in areas such as Dallas, large school districts in Florida, and the city of Los Angeles, where we saw a 14 percent increase under the new standards.

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Agriculture Secretary Announces $3 Million for a New Program to Improve Pollinator Health of Bees

“Honey bee pollination supports an estimated $15 billion worth of agricultural production, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables that are the foundation of a nutritious diet. The future security of America’s food supply depends on healthy honey bees,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Expanded support for research, combined with USDA’s other efforts to improve honey bee health, should help America’s beekeepers combat the current, unprecedented loss of honey bee hives each year.”

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White House and USDA Announce School Wellness Standards

First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announce proposed school wellness standards and roll out of breakfast and lunch programs for schools that serve low income communities

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2014 – Today, First Lady Michelle Obama joins U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to announce proposed guidelines for local school wellness policies. The bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandated that the USDA set guidelines for what needed to be included in local school wellness policies in areas such as setting goals for nutrition education and physical activity, informing parents about content of the policy and implementation, and periodically assessing progress and sharing updates as appropriate. As part of local school wellness policies, the proposed guidelines would ensure that foods and beverages marketed to children in schools are consistent with the recently-released Smart Snacks in School standards. Ensuring that unhealthy food is not marketed to children is one of the First Lady’s top priorities; that is why it is so important for schools to reinforce the importance of healthy choices and eliminate marketing of unhealthy products.

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Senior Hunger

The number of older adults is projected to increase over the next decade and continue to rise in the following decade. In 2040 there will be 79.7 million older adults, more than twice as many as in 2000.  Additionally, the senior population is becoming increasingly diverse.  Between 2012 and 2030, the white population of 65 and plus is projected to increase by 54% compared with 125% of older minorities. [i]

These changing demographics will have profound impacts on the demand for social services, especially the need for adequate and culturally appropriate nutrition services.  Seniors may have unique nutritional needs and challenges that separate them from the rest of the population and must be considered.

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