• About this Blog

    During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama announced a goal of of ending childhood hunger in America by the year 2015. Since taking office, President Obama, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and other members of the Administration have reiterated that commitment.

    FRAC's 2015 blog covers the latest news and developments of the 2015 initiative at the national and state levels.

  • Report: Ending Childhood Hunger by 2015

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  • USDA Secretary Outlines Child Nutrition Reauthorization Priorities at National Press Club, Reaffirms 2015 Commitment

    Earlier this week, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. His speech, which focused on Child Nutrition Reauthorization, is available on the C-SPAN Web site.

    In his speech, Secretary Vilsack spoke forcefully about the Administration’s commitment to achieving the President’s goal to end childhood hunger by 2015 and about the First Lady’s initiative to reduce obesity among children. The Secretary stated, “[i]t is vitally important that we focus our energies and resources on solving both of these challenges.”  He spoke about the links between stronger child nutrition programs and better education and health for children and stronger national security.

    He outlined USDA priorities for reauthorization, many of which echoed priorities in the anti-hunger community. He specifically proposed reducing stigma and expanding participation in the School Breakfast Program, expanding the Afterschool Meal Program from 14 states to all states, working to encourage more sites to provide summer meals, improving the quality of food offered in schools, regulating competitive foods, strengthening school wellness policies, supporting efforts to move away from paper applications and to expand the use of direct certification, and competitive grants to states to advance successful strategies, and to states and nonprofits for systems to streamline application processes.

    He concluded by saying: “In his first year in office, President Obama pulled us back from the brink of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression and worked to lay a new foundation for economic growth.  He identified three key strategies to building that lasting prosperity: innovation, investment, and education.  All three strategies require the next generation to be the healthiest and best educated in our history. We will not succeed if of our children aren’t learning as they should because they are hungry, and cannot achieve because they aren’t healthy.

    “After World War II, when our future was on the line, our leaders understood that the health of our nation – of our economy, our national security, and our communities – depends on the health of our children.  We would do well to remember that lesson today, and to act on it once again.”

    For a full list of the Secretary’s priorities, click here to read the text of the remarks and here to read the press release.

    FRAC remains committed to working with the Administration and with Congress to pass a strong reauthorization bill. To learn more about Child Nutrition Reauthorization and actions you can take, visit FRAC’s Legislative Action Center.

    New Analysis Reveals Extent of Hunger in Every Corner of the U.S.

    New Data on Hunger in Our States and Metro Areas
    Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center

    Close to one-fifth of this country’s households in 2009 that they didn’t have enough money to buy needed food at some point in the prior twelve months.  And the problem was even more serious in households with children; close to one-fourth of these homes couldn’t afford enough food. In 82 of the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), 15 percent or more of respondents answered that they did not have enough money to buy needed food at times in the last 12 months. Practically every congressional district in the country had more than a tenth of respondents reporting food hardship. Of the 436 congressional districts (including the District of Columbia), 311 had a food hardship rate of 15 percent or higher.

    These troubling statistics are all part of today’s release of the Food Research and Action Center’s (FRAC) new report, “Food Hardship: A Closer Look at Hunger.” For the first time, recent data on food hardship – the inability to afford enough food – are available for every state, all 436 Congressional Districts and for 100 of the country’s largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA).  This is the first report based on a sample size adequate to analyze food hardship data at the MSA and congressional district level. And no report before this has been able to look at food hardship data so close in time to publication.

    The report analyzes survey data that were collected by Gallup and provided to us at FRAC. The ability to provide such localized data and such up-to-date data comes from Gallup’s partnership with Healthways. As part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project, which asks a series of questions on a range of topics including emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior, work environment and access to basic services, more than 530,000 people have been asked since early 2008: “Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?”

    Anyone who follows the news knows that hunger has been on the rise in recent years, but we now know the extent of hunger in cities and Congressional districts.  This data provides each Member of Congress with the most accurate snapshot of their district and their constituents’ struggles with hunger that has ever been available.

    Now that we have these data, it’s time to put them to use. These findings give local, state and federal lawmakers, as well as private and nonprofit organizations, the tools they need to put a broad anti-hunger plan in place.

    The President has called for an end to childhood hunger by 2015. FRAC applauds this mission and stands behind this goal. Earlier this year, we laid out a multi-step anti-hunger plan. With today’s report, the need to take action has become more urgent.

    Among our recommendations on ways to end childhood hunger – and hunger in general:

    • Assure that federal and state governments continue to focus their efforts on boosting the economy and employing tools that especially help low-income workers, such as refundable tax credits and a higher minimum wage.
    • Improve the SNAP/ Food Stamp by making benefits more adequate and expanding eligibility.
    • Strengthen Child Nutrition Programs, including the school meal programs, child care food, afterschool meals and snacks, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which are due to be renewed by Congress this year.
    • Ensure all families have access to reasonably priced nutritious foods.  This is an especially urgent need in low-income areas in large cities where good supermarkets often don’t exist.
    • Combine and streamline anti-hunger efforts among governments, the private sector and nonprofit organizations at the local, state and federal level.

    These are among the most essential strategies we must use to bring down the rates of hunger across the nation.  Click here for the full FRAC plan.

    The Gallup-Healthways findings tell a sobering story about how many people, families and communities are struggling to afford enough food to stay healthy.  In a country as powerful and well-off as ours – even in today’s economy – we cannot continue to allow this level of hunger to continue.  Today’s findings are an alarm bell that must not be ignored.

    [2015] USDA Roundtables on Jobs and Economic Growth

    Throughout January and February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will host a series of roundtables and forums that will focus on job creation and economic growth. These jobs roundtables offer anti-hunger advocates an opportunity to promote job creation and investment strategies outlined in FRAC’s recommendations for ending childhood hunger in the U.S. by 2015. Click here to read FRAC’s paper.

    Click here for a list of upcoming roundtables, event details, and state contact information.

    The roundtables are good venues to explain how important federal nutrition programs are for rural America: they help needy rural school children and adults be ready to learn and work; they provide markets for famers and ranchers who produce food; and they boost sales for rural retailers who redeem program benefits.

    To learn more, click here for USDA’s news release on the forums. Contact Ellen Vollinger (evollinger@frac.org) or Jen Adach (jadach@frac.org) if you have any questions.

    How to End Hunger by 2015 – Susan Bateson Outlines Recommendations the Administration and Congress Can Take

    Picture a nation where all children have enough nutritious food to eat and never worry where they’ll find their next meal. They eat three solid, healthy meals a day, have a couple of snacks, and go to bed without fearing hunger. According to President Obama, who made a campaign pledge to end childhood hunger in the United States by 2015, this is the world he wants to see by six years from now.

    The Obama Administration is beginning to put some effort behind this pledge. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is holding a series of listening sessions around the country on ways to achieve the 2015 goal. One of those sessions was recently held here in Oakland, Calif.

    Groups and individuals from various sectors, including state agencies, industry and advocacy groups, and service providers showed up and shared ideas on how to end childhood hunger over the next six years. We at the Alameda County Community Food Bank were there to represent the hundreds of thousands of county residents who live with hunger – numbers that are escalating on a monthly basis.

    We’ve laid out a number of  that will lead our country down the right path toward ending hunger. The administration and Congress can take a number of steps:

    Click here for more on the Calitics Web site.

    2015 in the Big Apple: Report from New York Listening Session

    Kimberley Chin (KC), director of Maryland Hunger Solutions, and Alexandra Ashbrook (AA), director of D.C. Hunger Solutions, both of which are FRAC initiatives, attended the 2015 Listening Session held in New York City on October 7. Here are their thoughts:

    AA: It was a good crowd, about 60 people in the room and 23 giving testimony. Most of them were delighted that President Obama set a goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015.

    KC: And, a lot of people had worked through the FRAC 2015 proposal and mentioned it during their testimony.

    AA: And many of them focused on the federal nutrition programs, how important they are to achieving the 2015 goal. For me, it drove home the point that the 2015 goal is achievable, and, together, we can make this happen.

    KC: People also expressed some real concerns about the federal nutrition programs – that they need to be strengthened.

    AA: That’s definitely true. The programs need to be strengthened so they reach more low-income people. That could be by serving breakfast in the classroom so more low-income children can participate or expanding afterschool meals to all states. Access needs to be front and center.

    KC: And, it was important that the session included people who had actually participated in SNAP and other programs.

    AA: Mariana Chilton – she’s responsible for the Witnesses to Hunger project – brought Tangela Federick to the hearing. Tangela’s a Witness to Hunger participant and said that we need to remember that there are human faces behind the numbers and that the strategies we’re discussing impact real people.

    KC: I agree with Tangela that we shouldn’t forget the faces behind the statistics. Right now, USDA reports 12.4 million children living in households that struggle against hunger. John Cook pointed out that there are an additional 8.8 million children that are in households with “marginal food security,” and they are facing the same health consequences that food insecure children face.

    AA: A lot of the discussion did focus on the implications of hunger on children’s health. And, the session raised interactions in another way also: a number of people said we need to look beyond the federal nutrition programs to truly end hunger. We need to look at things like better wages, affordable health insurance, refundable tax credits, and other ways to address poverty. There was definitely recognition among the speakers that achieving President Obama’s goal is not just in the hands of USDA, but other agencies too. Kimberley shared a great analogy about Duncan and Sebelius.

    KC: Just look at H1N1 – Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius are out there together talking about the virus and how to prevent it. Federal agencies can work together. Ending hunger should rise to this level.

    Utah 2015 Listening Session Participants Urge Administration to Address Root Causes of Hunger

    Anne Bellows, FRAC’s SNAP/Food Stamp Policy and Outreach Fellow, attended the Utah session. Here’s her report…

    More than 100 people attended the Utah “End Child Hunger by 2015” listening session, which was held on September 29 in Salt Lake City.

    The Utah listening session was part of “The Face of Hunger in Utah” conference, which was sponsored by Utah Food Bank Services and Utahns Against Hunger. Pamela Atkinson, a longtime community advocate in the state, was the opening keynote speaker; she highlighted the President’s commitment to ending childhood hunger and endorsed FRAC’s seven strategies.

    In her comments during the listening session, Gina Cornia with Utahns Against Hunger pointed out that “to reduce hunger you have to reduce poverty – they are intertwined. The whole U.S. government must be engaged – income supports, EITC, afterschool program funding should all be a part of the solution.”

    “Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work, now,” was the message from Matt Anderson of the Utah State Office on Education. He suggested that Utah form a Hunger Task Force – like the one in Oregon – so that the anti-hunger community in the state could strengthen existing partnerships and find new ways to collaborate and problem-solve together. He also spoke about the challenges facing summer programs, especially those in rural communities, and mentioned that he’d like to see the rural transportation grants come back.

    Other ideas at the listening session included:

    • Strengthening income supports and expanding the earned income tax credit for low-income working families;
    • Raising the minimum wage to reflect the cost of living;
    • Providing affordable health insurance for low-income Americans;
    • Continuing the improvements made by the economic recovery act which temporarily boosted SNAP/Food Stamp benefits and eliminated SNAP time limits imposed on able-bodied adults without dependents; and
    • Increasing nutrition program funding.

    Other session attendees included Mountain Plains Regional Administrator Darlene Barnes, representatives from Senator Hatch’s office, Senator Bennett’s office, the Utah State Office on Education, the Utah Department of Health, and the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

    Chicago Listening Session Participants Contribute Range of Ideas

    by Madeleine Levin, Senior Policy Analyst, School Breakfast and Lunch Program, Food Research and Action Center.

    One of the first USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) regional listening sessions to solicit feedback on ways to achieve President Barack Obama’s goal of ending childhood hunger in the U.S. by 2015 was held September 29th in Chicago. Julie Paradis, FNS Administrator, opened the session. She asked participants for proposals to address ways to end child hunger among all food insecure children, who number more than 12 million.

    Participants at the session included Diane Doherty with the Illinois Hunger Coalition, Frank Kubik with Focus Hope of Michigan, Jon Janowski with the Milwaukee Hunger Task Force, Mora Nees with the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks, and Mary Lou Langenhop with the Children’s Hunger Alliance of Ohio.

    Participants discussed a range of ideas, including:

    • Making additional investments in child nutrition programs;
    • Increasing the minimum wage;
    • Improving refundable tax credits for working families;
    • Retaining and building on recent economic stimulus improvements;
    • Simplifying paperwork for the federal nutrition programs, perhaps with a single application;
    • Convening a White House Conference on Hunger and Nutrition;
    • Increasing funding for afterschool suppers, school breakfast expansion, and summer program outreach and expansion (which can be accomplished through the upcoming Congressional reauthorization); and
    • Involving multiple federal agencies in the 2015 effort – especially the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services as well as USDA.

    People who were unable to attend any of the listening sessions can submit written comments to USDA at ech2015@fns.usda.gov.

    Julie Paradis, FNS/USDA, Invites "As Many As Possible" to Participate in USDA's 2015 Listening Sessions

    One of the most exciting parts of the job for me and others among both the President’s appointees and the career staff here at USDA is figuring how best and most effectively to reach the President’s goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015. At the Food and Nutrition Service we have been holding a series of listening sessions around the country – I was at one of the very first, in Chicago, and found it incredibly helpful. I want to invite as many people as possible to participate in this process – give us your ideas, experience and knowledge of our programs and the needs of your communities.

    There are more than 12 million children in our country in families struggling with hunger, and we need an ambitious set of strategies to help them. Many of those strategies involve the federal nutrition programs, but we need to think beyond the nutrition programs as well. As Melody Barnes, director of the President’s Domestic Policy Council, has said, we need to tackle hunger “from many different directions.” The President’s initial position paper on the 2015 goal mentioned SNAP, school meals, summer food and WIC, but also food banks and tackling poverty through tax relief, raising the minimum wage and providing affordable, accessible health insurance.

    That’s why this effort will involve not only USDA, but the Treasury Department, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, and others. And it will involve nonprofits, cities and states, and other stakeholders, as well as the federal government.

    If you have thoughts about how we should go about ending childhood hunger in this country, I encourage you to send them to the e-mail address we have set up for this: ECH2015@fns.usda.gov.

    Together we can reach this goal.

    Julie Paradis is Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    Domestic Policy Council Chief Highlights President’s Commitment to 2015 Goal

    In a recent column, The Oregonian’s David Sarasohn had the following quote from Melody Barnes:

    “The president’s commitment to ending childhood hunger,” said Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, “is reflected in both the Recovery Act and his budget, which increased food stamps, provided resources to over-stretched food banks and invested in expanding access to child nutrition programs. The president also recognizes that we need to tackle hunger from many different angles, including such strategies as refundable tax credits that boost the incomes of struggling working families.”

    Barnes is the latest Administration official to echo the President’s pledge. Since being appointed, U.S. Department of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has mentioned the President’s goal several times, most recently at last week’s Healthy Futures, Healthy Children conference. Both Martha Coven, also with the Domestic Policy Council and head of the Office of Mobility and Opportunity, and Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, echoed this commitment at the same conference.

    The 2015 goal also popped up in a recent story in The Nation about the pending reauthorization of the child nutrition programs.

    Are people talking about the 2015 goal in your community? Let us know by posting in the comments below.

    Welcome to 2015

    FRAC is excited that the President has set a goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015, and to launch our new blog focused on achieving that goal.

    We are an extraordinarily affluent nation – even today, as we reach what we all hope is the bottom of the recession, but we are a nation that for too long has had too much hunger and food insecurity in the midst of our affluence. Even before the recession began more than 12 million American children were living in households that suffer from hunger or food insecurity. That’s more than 17 percent of all U.S. children.

    During the presidential campaign, President Obama pledged to make it a priority to end childhood hunger by 2015. Since being elected, he has signaled his continued support for this goal and his Administration has begun to take important steps to attack poverty and reduce hunger, even as this terrible recession has made the job harder, at least in the short term. We still have a long way to go.

    I believe it is realistic to imagine that six years from now, every American child will begin each day secure that she will have enough nutritious food. Six years from now, every family should know where it can turn if it has hit a rough patch and can’t afford that nutritious food.

    FRAC has developed a seven-pronged strategy to accomplish this goal.  We think it’s a strong starting point, and we must start now. We invite you to keep a close watch on 2015. In the coming weeks and months, we will post frequently here and have guest postings from other people and groups committed to achieving the 2015 goal. We’ll keep tabs on Capitol Hill and on USDA and other government agencies and blog about critical legislation and administrative steps, including the upcoming reauthorization of the child nutrition programs. We’ll follow 2015 press coverage and share it with you.

    This is an important time in our nation and the policy decisions we make now will impact generations of children and families. 2015 will foster conversation and spur ideas on how best to achieve the goal by 2015. Take a look at the summary of FRAC’s 2015 strategy below or read the full paper. I look forward to hearing your comments and working together to end childhood hunger by 2015.

    Jim Weill
    President of the Food Research and Action Center

    Summary of 2015 paper
    FRAC’s “Ending Childhood Hunger by 2015: The Essential Strategies for Achieving the President’s Goal” sets out seven essential strategies to achieving that goal. They focus both on improving and expanding the nation’s nutrition programs, and bolstering the economy and strengthening supports for low-income families in order to move more out of poverty, the root cause of hunger in this country.
    In brief, the seven strategies are:

    • Restore economic growth and create jobs with better wages for lower-income workers.
    • Raise the incomes of the lowest-income families.
    • Strengthen the SNAP/Food Stamp Program.
    • Strengthen Child Nutrition Programs.
    • Engage the entire federal government in ending childhood hunger.
    • Work with states, localities and nonprofits to expand and improve participation in federal nutrition programs.
    • Make sure all families have convenient access to reasonably priced, healthy food.

    For the full paper, visit www.endingchildhunger2015.org.