New Threats to the Food Assistance Network | Maryland Food Bank
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New Threats to the Food Assistance Network

If Washington cuts funding to child and senior feeding programs, who will pick up the slack?

This is the second in a series of planned posts exploring the effects of decreased funding and elimination of programs on the food assistance network. Read the first installment, “We’re Here to Help.”

Budget Cuts in the News

If you follow the news, you’ve likely encountered a number of recent stories about eliminating or reducing many federal programs that fund hunger relief initiatives for some of our most vulnerable community members — children and seniors.

The food assistance network is a family, and like other families, when our brother or sister is threatened, we stand up to protect them.

While the budget debate is just beginning in Washington, it is vital that people understand the positive impact that hunger relief programs have on individuals and communities. It is just as important to be aware of the real consequences of reducing or eliminating them altogether.

After School Programs

During a March 16 White House budget briefing, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney was asked about after-school programs.

“They’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home get fed so they do better in school,” he said. “Guess what? There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that. There’s no demonstrable evidence of actually helping results, helping kids do better in school.”

Simple science tells us that machines do not run without fuel, and the human body is no exception — it’s hard for the brain to work well without proper nutrition.

There is a solid body of evidence that suggests that after-school programs are highly beneficial to the participating children both today and in the long-term.

According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), for instance, school-aged children have higher daily intake of fruits, vegetables, milk, and key nutrients like calcium, vitamin A, and folate on days they eat after-school meals compared to days they do not.

What’s more, the Harvard Family Research Project has found that participation in after-school programs is associated with:

  • better attitudes toward school and higher educational aspirations
  • higher school attendance and less tardiness
  • less disciplinary action (e.g., suspension)
  • lower drop-out rates
  • better performance in school (as measured by achievement test scores and grades)
  • greater on-time promotion
  • improved homework completion

Our Supper Club Program, which is part of our suite of MFB Kids initiatives , addresses this issue head-on by providing financially strapped families with real-world solutions — their children receive free and healthy meals while enjoying varied after-school activities in a safe environment.

Food-Insecure Seniors

Programs to address senior food insecurity were also brought up during the White House briefing, with the Meals on Wheels program generating considerable buzz on social media and in the news last week.

While there is debate about the actual consequences potential budget cuts would have to the program, the math is straightforward — every senior that Meals on Wheels has to turn away will seek help from another food assistance provider

The assumption that charitable organizations can easily fill in the gap is as misguided as believing these programs aren’t helping.

In Maryland, those shortcomings would have to be met by food banks and initiatives like My Groceries to Go! and Baltimore City’s DSS Emergency Food Distribution Program, parts of the safety net that can’t withstand further strain.

Stand Strong for All Your Neighbors

Children and seniors are the most vulnerable members of our communities, but they are not the only ones who rely on the food assistance network. While the economy is showing signs of life, the recovery has left too many low-income families behind. Millions are still unemployed and many more are working part time or multiple jobs, unable to make ends meet.

People of all ages are making tough choices every day, with 69% reportedly choosing between food and utilities and 66% choosing between food and medical care, according to Feeding America.

It is within our power to ease this burden on our neighbors. We can give them a sense of security and allow them to focus on strengthening themselves, their families, and ultimately, our communities.

5 thoughts on “New Threats to the Food Assistance Network

  1. I m a single mom of five kids, trying to go back to work but things are hard. I have some trouble with food for my kids. Can you please me with food for the kids please

  2. Today’s homelessness exists as a prevailing and growing threat to society today and in society’s future. If real work to address this issue isn’t done soon we are going to destroy a multitude of individuals, keeping them from ever achieving their goals, dreams and hopes. With the homeless situation persisting as it is today, our homeless youth are growing up with such stress, physically, mentally and emotionally that they may never recover their true potential and will be caught in a revolving door of poverty and homelessness. This is even acknowledged by a new study by the Federal Reserve noted in The Washington Post, March 24, 2017, the Economy and Business Section Digest, which quoted Federal Reserve Chair Janet L. Yellen on the study as finding “children who grew up in poverty were twice as likely to struggle with financial challenges later in life”.

    Without the financial assistance needed to address this issue the future of these homeless children will never be able, in turn, to enrich this City, this State, or this Nation with their potential of the many talents, creativity, intelligence, and development naturally inherent within each of them.

    One of the solutions for the success of these children and our society in general is the program of partnership between Heart’s Place Services, Inc. and the Maryland Food Bank and called the Weekend Survival Kit. Greater than most backpack kits supplied to school children the Weekend Survival Kit provides over 12 pounds of healthy, nutritious food distributed through the City’s Public School pantries where the backpacks are packed and given to the homeless children each Friday. The special contents of these backpacks provide sufficient food for three people for the two days each week when schools are closed and the meals they offer are not available. The food is chosen to meet the situations of homelessness by requiring neither heating nor refrigeration, and the backpacks include disposal bowls, napkins and plastic utensils so that meals are easily accessed by children with working parents.

    When there is sufficient food for the family to share, when protein, vitamins, minerals and the caloric content required by growing children are available, there is a much greater chance that the children receiving these meals will not miss school, not fall ill as frequently, but will have the strength to start school on Monday refreshed and ready to learn and will have the energy to “be a child” running and playing, developing physically as they should. Their brighter future is our brighter future as well. The impact of the Weekend Survival Kit, as small as a backpack given to one child but in the generous amount of food it contains, is huge in the context of how it affects the future. We need to be sure we are doing all we can to expand this program in every way possible.

    To quote Frederick Douglas “It is easier to raise a healthy child than to fix a broken man”.”

  3. I live and volunteer in a senior citizen bldg that serves dinner 3 evenings a week – thru the Office of the Aging. The seniors look forward to it since it saves them grocery money and also provides time to socialize with their neighbors – a very important aspect of senior living. Otherwise, they would be sitting in their apts alone, starring at the boob tube or the 4 walls. If funding is cut out for this feeding program, they won’t have this time together. We need to keep in contact with our Congressional reps and make sure this program survives

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