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Nutrition Programs Up for Reauthorization as Need Continues to Rise

March 30, 2010

PORTLAND, Ore. - Thousands of people in Oregon and other Western states are sending a message to Washington, D.C., this week, declaring that more low-income Oregonians and school children need access to programs like WIC and school meals. As Congress considers reauthorizing key nutrition programs, a letter-writing campaign is ramping up, with the goal of making sure lawmakers know how many constituents benefit from them.

Jon Stubenvoll, who is the director of advocacy with the Oregon Food Bank, says the programs play a big role in getting Oregon kids the nutrition they need.

"Here in Oregon, on any given school day more than 300,000 kids eat a healthy, nutritious lunch through the school lunch program. We've got more than 130,000 schoolkids who eat a healthy breakfast at school."

He adds that there are also over 100,000 Oregon participants in the WIC program that provides nutritious food for women, infants and children. But Stubenvoll says the number of Oregonians in need of assistance is even greater, which is why he's also looking for some changes to eligibility rules that could allow more low-income households to access them.

He says it wouldn't hurt to look for ways to make school meals even more nutritious at the same time, and suggests one way of doing that that could also help local economies at the same time.

"By, for example, enhancing farm-to-school programs. And those farm-to-school programs also support local agriculture."

Stubenvoll says the programs could also stand to be streamlined, to make it easier for schools to enroll. During the 2008-2009 school year, students receiving free and reduced lunches nationwide jumped by five percent, and a more recent survey of schools found that number has continued to rise.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - OR