A Process to Get Help Does Exist
Words by The Earth Precise
In today’s economy, the cost for basic & essential needs is on the rise, while incomes are staggering. Many family units, especially those with minor children, are faced with the task of balancing budgets that, unfortunately, are unable to or barely stretch to acquire these basic needs, including nutritional needs. Specifically, hunger is still an issue faced by many families nationwide. Thankfully, there are food assistance programs in place, mostly administered by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Programs administered by the USDA include the School Breakfast Program, Women Infant and Children (WIC), the National School Lunch Program, The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP- formerly known as the Food Stamp Program)etc., among others. These programs and services aid low-income families in meeting their nutritional needs.
How does a family gain access to these programs and services? Most families gain access to these services by going to their local Department of Human Services (DHS) office and filing an application for services. For instance, the SNAP program is a program for families who have gross monthly income that falls at or below income guidelines. Those criteria are set according to Federal Poverty Guidelines as determined by the federal government and vary according to household size and other criteria. The SNAP program provides a monthly assistance grant, issued on an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card to purchase food items at participating grocery stores and other retailers that accept EBT as a form of payment. This monthly assistance grant assists families in meeting nutritional needs for over 46,000,000 families according to the USDA website.
In addition to the SNAP program, there are food banks that give families access to food. A food bank is an agency that has a stock of food, including canned goods, non-perishables, etc. available to families, at no charge. Food banks are usually funded by state government grants as and through donations, monetary, as well as actual food, from the surrounding community. While food banks are independent from local DHS offices, a family seeking food assistance could be referred to a food bank from a local DHS office. Food banks usually partner with local DHS offices to help in meeting the nutritional needs of the local communities.
Local health departments provide more than vaccinations and other health services.
Local health departments also assist pregnant mothers obtain the proper nutrition for a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby by administering the WIC program. Pregnant women and children can gain access to vouchers to purchase milk, cheese, eggs, cereal, etc. at participating food retailers. The WIC program also serves to educate it’s participants on proper nutrition to ensure healthy pregnancy and birth outcomes, better access to health care, and fetal to school age cognitive development.
Once a child is school age, the USDA still wants to ensure nutritional needs are met as a rumble in the tummy has been linked to poor academic performance. Studies have found a hungry child would be more likely to struggle in an academic setting in comparison to if that child had consumed adequate nutrition.
To address this issue, the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program are administered at public schools to ensure nutritional needs of students are met. Schools are funded to provide lunch and breakfast either free, reduced rate or other fee. This is also linked to the SNAP program, as SNAP recipients are eligible for free lunch and breakfast.
Finally, not all food programs that may be available to assist families in meeting their nutritional needs are mentioned here. Depending on the community, there may be other non-profit agencies that address the problem of hunger in our communities. Even with all of these parameters in place, hunger is still a pressing issue.
This problem is not one that can’t be conquered, however. Community involvement and other programs specifically and especially By 2015: America need your help in facing this issue and to end child hunger. The aforementioned government assistance programs aren’t enough and a commitment to the cause to end child hunger is dire. Commit and contribute to the cause of ending child hunger today.