Child hunger expected to spike in the wake of school closures and job losses;
Jolie: “Strengthening SNAP will help ensure that fewer children go to bed hungry.”
Contact: Laura Washburn, firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, DC – After speaking with local organizations feeding families who warned of a dramatic spike in the numbers of children going hungry, humanitarian and Academy Award-winning actor Angelina Jolie has called on Congress to strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to aid American families and children in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Ms. Jolie recently announced a $1M donation to the national anti-hunger campaign No Kid Hungry which is helping to feed kids and families in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
In a letter to Congressional leaders, Ms. Jolie urged Congress to heed requests by frontline organizations to strengthen SNAP, “alongside other steps to address the many needs faced by families in America at this time.”
Before the pandemic, 1 in 7 kids in the United States lived with hunger. According to new estimates, that number may grow to 1 in 4 this year. These are families in need – seen recently in news reports, waiting in long lines for food. Many are already struggling to pay rent, pay for health care, pay utility bills and feed their children. With schools and emergency feeding programs struggling to keep up with the demand, millions of children are facing a long, hungry year ahead. SNAP is one of the most effective programs available for feeding children and stimulating the economy.
Specifically, Ms. Jolie asked for SNAP benefits to be increased by at least 15%, as recommended by economists, service providers and leading food insecurity experts; for the minimum benefit to be raised; and for families to have the option to use benefits in some restaurants.
“Many of the most vulnerable children in America have missed nearly 740 million meals at school, due to closures resulting from the rapid spread of coronavirus,” Ms. Jolie said in her letter. “While strengthening SNAP will not alleviate all of the challenges low-income families are facing during the public health emergency, it will help ensure that fewer children go to bed hungry in our country.”
“As a longtime humanitarian, Angelina understands that the road to economic recovery begins with families having the food they need for their kids to thrive,” said Billy Shore, founder and executive chair of Share Our Strength, the organization behind the No Kid Hungry campaign. “It will take a combination of resources to meet this need: school meals, emergency feeding and increased benefits and flexibility for SNAP, which not only feeds kids, it feeds the economy as well.”
In late April, Ms. Jolie and Mr. Shore joined a Zoom conference call with representatives from four local organizations No Kid Hungry has recently supported with emergency grants as part of its coronavirus response effort. Each organization is on the front lines of the pandemic, finding creative ways to feed their communities.
Representatives from the organizations spoke about their own coronavirus response efforts, the growing need in their areas, and the support they’ve received from No Kid Hungry:
- Jennifer LeBarre, executive director of Student Nutrition Services at San Francisco Unified School District said, “In SNAP, there’s something called the ‘fourth week famine,’ where families typically run out of their food stamp allocation before end of month. On our second week of meals – around March 20 – we did 41,000 meals and by the end of March we did 90,000 meals a week. That’s how much the spike in need went to because food stamps ran out.”
- The Greater Boston Food Bank’s president and CEO Catherine D’Amato shared that they have seen a 300% increase in SNAP applications in Massachusetts in the last few weeks, calling SNAP an “absolutely awesome program, like school meals.”
- “Logistically the feeding program has been hard because of the vastness of our area,” said Steve Hernandez, who is distributing meals for One Spirit, serving the Pine Ridge reservation in Rapid City, S.D. “We really face a mounting crisis when something like this pandemic comes in. We’re already struggling to maintain. When something like this comes on, it’s even harder.”
- The Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger has launched a home delivery meal program called “Meals on Wheels 4 Kids,” aiming to serve children who are transportation disadvantaged and food insecure, according to its executive director Caitlyn Peacock. “We were able to launch it the first day of school closures because of No Kid Hungry.”
On the call, Ms. Jolie who has worked with refugees for nearly twenty years, spoke of her shock at the scope of child hunger in America, saying “I knew there was poverty in America but I could not believe when I realized how many school children in America were dependent on a meal to not go hungry. I was so disgusted that we have gotten to this point as a country and that we would let the most vulnerable be in such a state. I can’t imagine what it feels like for those parents.”
Regarding SNAP, Ms. Jolie said the local organizations are “filling in gaps that will be impossible to meet if the government doesn’t start making strong changes right now.” “You really are making such a huge difference to the lives of all of these families,” said as she applauded the local organizations.
View a recording of the Zoom call. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Through a combination of emergency grants, strategic assistance, advocacy and awareness, No Kid Hungry is equipping communities with the resources they need to help feed kids and families through this pandemic and in its aftermath. To date, the campaign has worked with 454 schools and community groups across all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia and provided more than $11.6 million in emergency response funding to help its partners serve an estimated 4.5 million meals a day. No Kid Hungry has also launched a Free Meals Finder, to help families find free food distribution sites in their communities. For more information, visit NoKidHungry.org/Coronavirus.
About No Kid Hungry
No child should go hungry in America. But as many as 1 in 4 kids will face hunger this year. No Kid Hungry is ending childhood hunger through effective programs that provide kids with the food they need. This is a problem we know how to solve. No Kid Hungry is a campaign of Share Our Strength, an organization working to end hunger and poverty. Join us at NoKidHungry.org.
Angelina Jolie is an Academy Award-winning actor and Special Envoy of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. She recently made a $1 million donation to No Kid Hungry, along with a separate, undisclosed donation to the UN Refugee Agency, to support education for the most vulnerable children internationally. She is working with the UNESCO on a Global COVID-19 Education Coalition, aimed at ensuring children worldwide can continue their education during the pandemic, and has written of the dangers facing children worldwide during the pandemic.