Fighting hunger through state school programscomment (0)
October 22, 2009
Nearly 200,000 children in Alabama didn’t have enough food today, but Alabama schools are working hard to make sure they at least had breakfast and lunch.
Taking the top spot among all other states, every Alabama school that offers a National School Lunch Program, plus some, also offers a breakfast program (1,533 schools), said Sophie Milam, domestic policy analyst for the Christian anti-hunger lobbying organization Bread for the World.
But only about half of the children receiving food assistance at lunch also receive breakfast. Some bus routes may not arrive to the school on time or some families may not be able to get to the school in time for the morning meals, Milam said.
“There’s the stigma issue as well. You’re already there for lunch and all kids are eating lunch. … But the share of kids eating breakfast is more free and reduced because other kids will eat at home. It’s self-identifying you are poor and need help, so that’s often another reason you see lower participation.”
And “only 7.4 percent of kids who get free or reduced-price lunches during the school year receive summer meals, compared to 12 percent nationwide,” Milam added.
Nationwide there are 100,000 school lunch programs, with only 32,000 summer food programs. On a state level, 1,527 Alabama schools provide lunch programs, compared to 483 summer sites.
“There you’re seeing it’s an access issue,” Milam said. “If it’s not offered in the child’s town, then they can’t participate or take advantage of it.”
Many schools that would normally host schoolyear programs are closed during the summer months, “so they’re often run by parks and recreation departments; they’re run by churches and community centers. But there are usually no bus routes or transportation systems in the rural areas for underprivileged children even if programs are available,” she said.
“Like the breakfast program, even if you offer the program, it doesn’t mean kids will get there,” Milam noted. “But that’s the first step — to be able to connect kids with benefits they are eligible for is to offer them in the first place.”
Alabama currently doesn’t operate the Child and Adult Care Food Program supper program for at-risk children that is available in 10 other states. (TAB)
National School Lunch Program
State’s annual federal funding: $157,397,685
Alabama schools offering: 1,529
Children served daily: 586,842
School Breakfast Program
State’s annual federal funding: $47,139,210
Alabama schools offering: 1,533
Children served daily: 205,728
Summer Food Service Program
State’s annual federal funding: $3,069,250
Children served daily: 26,156
Source: Bread for the World