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MN Congressman Has Key Role in Addressing Child Hunger

July 13, 2010

ST. PAUL, Minn. - One in three school-age children in Minnesota relies on free or reduced lunch programs for two-thirds of his daily calories and that figure is increasing.

Congress is expected to take rapid action to address the growing problem: The House Education and Labor Committee is having a hearing this week on the $8 billion "Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act." One key Minnesota lawmaker has so far not supported the expanded legislation, but Jill Hiebert, communications manager of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, is hopeful that he will change his mind if he hears from enough constituents and advocates.

"Representative John Kline from Minnesota is one of the leaders on the committee that's reviewing the legislation this week, and we would like him to know that this bill is really going to help thousands of children in our state."

Congressman Kline says that while child nutrition programs are worthy, given the deficit, Congress does not have $8 billion to spare. The child nutrition legislation will increase the number of children eligible to receive food, and has provisions to address infant and child hunger issues through school lunch, summer nutrition programs, and more access to healthy, locally-grown food.

Pediatric and academic research shows that nutrition plays a key role in a child's academic and behavioral development, says Hiebert. She adds that funding child nutrition programs is not only essential for kids' health, but it is an affordable way to improve education performance.

"Frankly, when it's testing time, the children are provided food for free because they realize that they're going to perform better on these standardized test days if they are in fact not hungry."

Hiebert says Hunger Solutions would like to ensure that all kids in need of food get access to free lunch, but they are encouraged by the bill in Congress.

"With this investment, the schools will benefit from more reimbursement dollars, the kids will benefit with access to better, healthier foods, more locally grown, so it's good for local farming businesses as well. We think it's a win for everybody."

Last month, when the state announced a one-time grant opportunity for food shelves to expand children's summer nutrition programs, $3 million in grant requests flooded in for the $1 million in available funds.

Background on H.R. 5504 can be found at: edlabor.house.gov

Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN