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D.C. Children in Rental Housing Are Food-Insecure: Report

USDA Extends Free Meals for Youth to End of the Year

A new survey found that one in four adults with children in the District say they can’t afford enough food for their children and one in 10 adults in rental housing say they are behind on their rent.

The report comes from the Census Bureau’s weekly Household Pulse Survey launched in April to provide nearly real-time data on how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting D.C. and the nation.

About 63,000 adults — 12 percent of all adults in the District — reported that their household sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the last seven days, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) analysis of census data for the survey period between July 9 and July 21.

The survey also found that Black and Latino children face the highest rates of hardship as well as adults living with children versus adults not living with anyone under age 18.

In neighboring Maryland, communities of color aren’t fairing much better with one in three households with children struggling with food insecurity, according to data from Northwestern University.

Feeding America says across the U.S. up to 18 million children are at risk of hunger due to the pandemic.

The Impact of Coronavirus on Food Insecurity analysis, conducted by Dr. Craig Gundersen in April found that an increase in the unemployment rate of 7.6 percent coupled with a 5 percent increase in child poverty would result in a 9.3 percent increase in the child food insecurity rate—bringing the total child food insecurity rate potentially to 24.5 percent.

That means at the height of the pandemic one in four children could face hunger in America this year.

“Whether the food insecurity rate rises to one in four or remains at one in seven, as it currently stands now, it is too many children facing hunger in our country,” Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, said. “This report should mobilize everyone from our elected officials to the public at large to provide all the resources families need to get through this crisis.”

Babineaux-Fontenot adds that the pandemic has affected communities large and small, and the ripple effects could be felt for years to come.

She says school closures and stay-at-home orders have upended household budgets. At the same time, the Feeding America network food banks are facing an unprecedented set of circumstances with increased demand, a decline in food donations, and fewer volunteers.

“This pandemic has brought the plight of so many millions of our neighbors to the forefront,” Babineaux-Fontenot said. “Every car waiting in a distribution line is a family seeking food and encouragement. We will not stop being there for them and ask that if you can support us in our mission, please give what you can.”

In response to the millions of children at-risk of going hungry, anti-hunger advocates called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue serving free meals to all students this fall as the economic fall-out from the pandemic continues.

At first, the USDA ruled it would not extend the summer meals program. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue explained the agency’s position in a letter.

“While we want to provide as much flexibility as local school districts need during this pandemic, the scope of this request is beyond what USDA currently has the authority to implement and would be closer to a universal school meals program which Congress has not authorized or funded.”

On Monday, Aug. 31, the USDA reversed its decision, extending the summer meals program to Dec. 31, 2020.

“As our nation reopens and people return to work, it remains critical our children continue to receive safe, healthy, and nutritious food,” Perdue said. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, USDA has provided an unprecedented amount of flexibilities to help schools feed kids through the school meal programs, and today, we are also extending summer meal program flexibilities for as long as we can, legally and financially.

“This extension of summer program authority will employ summer program sponsors to ensure meals are reaching all children — whether they are learning in the classroom or virtually — so they are fed and ready to learn, even in new and ever-changing learning environments,” Perdue said.

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Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s millennial publication. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, she attended Howard University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. A proud southern girl, her lineage can be traced to the Gullah people inhabiting the low-country of South Carolina. The history of the Gullah people and the Geechee Dialect can be found on the top floor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In her spare time she enjoys watching either college football or the Food Channel and experimenting with make-up. When she’s not writing professionally she can be found blogging at www.sarafinasaid.com. E-mail: Swright@washingtoninformer.com Social Media Handles: Twitter: @dreamersexpress, Instagram: @Sarafinasaid, Snapchat: @Sarafinasaid

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