Letter: Congress must support child nutrition | PostIndependent.com

Letter: Congress must support child nutrition

Kathy Underhill
Executive director, Hunger Free Colorado, Centennial

The holiday season is often portrayed as “merry and bright,” but for many Colorado families that’s not the case. When living paycheck to paycheck, a holiday break for families with school-age children leads to additional stress and tough choices like: Do I pay rent and bills or buy groceries?

It’s estimated that about one in five Colorado kids don’t know when or where they will get their next meal while out of school. Their families struggle to make ends meet and put food on the table, whether due to a job loss, health issue, minimum-wage job or misfortune. School breakfast and lunch help fill nutritional gaps, ensuring that all children are setup for success. Yet, over holiday break, students who eat free and reduced-price meals lose access to that basic nutrition provided during the school day; the fuel needed for their bodies and minds.

Programs that connect children to school meals, after-school snacks, and summer meals support their health, behavior and educational performance. Other programs like food stamps serve as an economic bridge, helping families purchase groceries and get back on their feet like the 255,000 Coloradans, including 130,000 children, who were lifted out of poverty due to the safety net between 2009 and 2013.

Clearly, without such programs, more Coloradans would experience hunger and, in turn, create a ripple effect with impacts on individual well-being, education, productivity and our state’s economic health. In 2015, our elected officials and the rest of Congress will consider reauthorization of all child nutrition programs, set to expire in September. They need to be protected and sufficiently funded not only to fuel kids with nutritious food, but to create a better future for all Coloradans.

This holiday break is not a vacation for thousands of families across Colorado, and it’s a shame that so many neighbors may go without and face hunger. Our Colorado delegates in Congress have the opportunity to strengthen federal nutrition programs in 2015 and beyond, and voters need to voice their support for programs that ensure a healthier, stronger state where no Coloradan goes hungry anytime of the year.

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