Federal waivers put in place at the height of the pandemic are allowed federal infant nutrition programs more flexibility in delivering meals to households, as the children were out of school.
These exemptions are ready to expire in a few months, and in Arkansas, hunger groups are warning that more children, especially in rural areas, will be at risk.
Tamara Sandberg, U.S. director of food security and nutrition for Save the Children, said the waivers allow parents to eat multiple meals for their children at once and in one convenient location.
“And the waivers allowed schools and other community partners to deliver meals directly to their homes, many, many more meals were distributed as a result,” Sandberg pointed out. “We are therefore very concerned about the impact this will have on the rate of children receiving meals this summer.”
One in five Arkansas children faces hungerand more than 48% of households with children rely on SNAP benefits.
Sandberg noted that leaders from across the country will meet at Rural Child Hunger Summit on April 28 to brainstorm ways to ensure rural children don’t go hungry as the country abandons pandemic-era policies.
Audrey Freshwater, Arkansas state director for Save the Children, said amid high gas and energy prices, demand for food aid is already skyrocketing in rural parts of the country. Arkansas. Freshwater communities will begin to feel the impact, especially schools.
“Hungry children are more likely to have lower math scores, repeat a grade and arrive at school late, or miss school altogether,” Freshwater pointed out.
Freshwater stressed that Save the Children will focus this summer on flexible and even unconventional access to meals for children, so families don’t have to walk long distances to pantries.
“We’re really leaning into this summer and partnering with new organizations as well as our existing districts to continue to address summer learning,” Freshwater noted, “but also addressing summer food issues. , ensuring that the children do not deprive themselves of meals, nor make their families.”
She added throughout the pandemic, Save the Children has provided nearly 45 million meals to rural children and their families across the country.
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