There are more children living in poverty in Ohio than there were at the height of the recession in 2008. In fact, according to 2015 Kids Count data, recently released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Ohio’s child-poverty rate increased from 18 percent in 2008 to 23 percent today – that represents 590,000 children living in poverty across our state.
The good news is there are a number of targeted federal programs that provide healthy, nutritious food to these children through Child Nutrition Programs; programs such as the School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Meals Program and WIC. These programs enable families in Ohio to make good choices instead of choosing between paying the bills and feeding their children.
Every five years these programs need to be reauthorized by Congress and they are set to expire at the end of September. I am writing to ask citizens of Ohio to join me in urging our Congressional delegation to invest in and strengthen programs that provide low-income children with the nutrition they need to grow and thrive.
I am a member of the State School Board and know that many teachers are concerned by the increasing number of students who come to school hungry. These students have trouble paying attention in class, easily fall behind and are more likely to have behavioral problems. School lunch, breakfast and snack programs provide the nutrition needed to help children make the most of their time in school.
When the school year ends, the Summer Meals Program fills-in by partnering with YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs and municipal recreation centers to serve nutritious meals and snacks. But only one in seven kids who participate in school meal programs continue to get the meals they need in the summer months. One bipartisan bill in Congress, the Summer Meals of Act of 2015, would expand eligibility to some of our more rural areas in Ohio and bring more summer meals to those children. Please join me in asking our members of Congress to ask that this proposal be rolled into the reauthorization legislation.
It might sound attractive to cut government spending but it’s clear that many Ohio families are still struggling to meet the basics. It’s in all our interests to help these kids get the start they need, including healthy food, so that they can set off to a bright future.
— AJ WAGNER, OHIO BOARD OF EDUCATION, 3RD DISTRICT