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Another Voice: School Lunch Week provides a call to action

By William Lambers

The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey reminds us how important school meals are. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state of Texas approved a waiver giving free school meals to all students in Houston for the coming year.

Houston Superintendent Richard Carranza says, “This waiver will give our families one less concern as they begin the process of restoring their lives. It will also provide a sense of normalcy by allowing students to have access to up to three nutritious meals each and every school day.”

As we celebrate National School Lunch Week beginning Monday, let’s remember the goal that no child should go hungry. By providing food through school we can end child hunger and also improve education. What better way to chart the future for a nation than with food for education?

In the ongoing debate over the U.S. health care system, let’s remember too that school meals improve the well-being of children. Also, if poor families are assured meals at school, that reduces the terrible possibility they would have to choose between paying for food or medicines.

School meals are a safety net for impoverished children and their families. We should keep that in place to give every child a chance to succeed. We should take away the trauma of child hunger.

We can provide free school lunches and breakfasts to ensure no child goes hungry in class. We can also improve the coverage of after-school, weekend and summer meal programs.
The Houston Food Bank, for example, is going to provide weekend backpacks of food to students. So even when schools are closed, needy children will have food available. The Houston Food Bank will need donations in the coming months to make sure it can provide these weekend backpacks.

Summer is another time of hunger gaps, because when schools close children lose access to the free lunch and breakfast. Our nation needs more summer feeding sites and take-home food during those months when schools are closed.

National legislation providing summer feeding should be passed by Congress. This should include more farm to school/pantry grants so that fresh produce can reach those in need during the summer months. This would feed hungry children and improve their health while also helping small farms.

While school meals are important for our nation to succeed, we should also remember what it means for other nations, too.

When it comes to U.S. foreign policy, the simple school meal is a powerful tool for good. The relatively inexpensive U.S. McGovern-Dole global school lunch program should get more emphasis and funding.

As National School Lunch week arrives, think of ways you can help all children receive these meals. School meals can change someone’s life.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the U.N. World Food Programme on the book “Ending World Hunger.” He is a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.

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