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URGENT ACTION needed on Child Nutrition

The Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation currently being discussed in Congress includes a provision that could eliminate several New Haven schools from access to free school meals, would impact several New Haven high schools food programs, and would seriously impact the Summer Meals program, through changing the guidelines for community eligibility, thus undoing many of the gains our community has made over the past few years to reduce childhood hunger in New Haven.
The New Haven Food Policy Council is asking concerned residents to consider doing the following:

1.       Contact Rosa DeLauro, as a resident, and voice your support for her opposition of the current legislation.  Rosa is standing with us, and she needs a strong showing of support from her district. Information is in the letter below. Call Rosa at 202-225-3661 or fax her a letter to 202-225-4890, or mail it to: The Honorable Rosa DeLauro, 2413 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC  20515

2.       Contact people you know who work in organizations that benefit kids and/or teens, and ask them to use the template below, to draft a letter, which they will fax to Rosa’s office: 202-225-4890 or mail to: The Honorable Rosa DeLauro, 2413 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC  20515

3.       Contact anyone you know who benefits from their child/grandchild having free meals in their school, and ask them to call Rosa’s office to share their story: 202-225-3661.

Please act by Monday, May 9th, since action will be taken on this legislation next week. Thank you for your support in securing this important resource for New Haven!

Sample Letter to Rep. Rosa DeLauro in Opposition to the House Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 (H.R. 5003)

Dear Representative DeLauro,

I am are writing to support you opposition to the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Chairman Rokita’s bill reauthorizing the child nutrition programs, the “Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016” (H.R. 5003).  As [insert your role here], I strongly oppose several provisions of the bill as they would significantly increase the administrative burden of operating the school meal programs, divert school nutrition program resources and staff time away from providing nutritious meals to students, and inevitably impede access to school meals for many vulnerable students.

The Chairman’s bill significantly weakens the Community Eligibility Provision, a federal option in its second year of nationwide implementation that reduces administrative work and increases school lunch and breakfast access in high-poverty schools. The bill proposes to reduce substantially the number of high-poverty schools that are eligible to implement community eligibility. In New Haven, this would impact at least 10 schools directly, and would compromise the access to free meals for students in our magnet high schools, as well as access to meals for hungry kids during the summer. To quote our School Food Service Director, Gail Sharry, “How do we pick which schools would be taken off the list?”.  Choosing any school will lead to kids facing hunger and a decreased ability to thrive in school.  We consider that result to be absolutely unacceptable.

Many schools in the 40 to 60 percent Identified Student-range, including New Haven, that would no longer be eligible under this proposal, have very high concentrations of poverty – typically between 64 and 96 percent. Those, like our school district, that are currently participating have made a determination at the local level that the program is financially viable and want to ensure the nutritional needs of their students are met. Such schools should continue to have the option to implement community eligibility to support the academic achievement and health of their students. Taking this program away from the thousands of schools already participating would be a step backwards for schools leading to more paperwork and administrative burden.

Additionally, the bill dramatically increases school meal application verification requirements in ways that inevitably would cause eligible students to lose access to free or reduced-price school meals. The number of household applications to be verified would increase significantly for thousands of school districts, creating unnecessary paperwork burdens for schools and families. A disproportionate number of the most vulnerable students, such as those who are homeless, migrant, immigrant or have limited English proficiency, would be particularly likely to fall through the cracks in the process and lose access to school meals even though they are eligible.

Any increase in the amount of applications would further stretch limited administrative and school nutrition staff time for all school districts—rural, suburban, and urban. Every dollar spent to verify school meal applications is a dollar diverted from the food and labor costs necessary to provide healthy meals to students. Schools across Kentucky and in our district are working hard to provide healthy and appealing meals—this proposal would undermine these efforts.

I strongly support your opposition to this bill as it does not lay out a path by which the reauthorization process can move forward and benefit the millions of children in need of help from the programs. This legislation instead will significantly reduce access to the school nutrition programs, significantly increase administrative burden for schools, and harm children’s nutrition and health, exacerbating the problems that the programs are designed to address.

       [Your name]
       [Your organization or role]

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