Hope for North Carolina Food Banks

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ASHEVILLE, N. C. – North Carolina food banks say tough economic times are making support for local food pantries that much more important, and Congress is considering legislation that would give them an important financial boost. Both the U.S. House and Senate are expected to vote on bills in the coming weeks to reauthorize and increase funding for federal child nutrition programs, including meals at schools and child care centers.

Funding for these programs has been in limbo for more than a year. If they are reauthorized, it will help food banks like MANNA better serve Asheville’s population in need, according to Joshua Stack, communications and marketing coordinator.

“Numerous studies have been done that document the effects of malnutrition on a child’s brain. And if, at the early stages of life, especially before they’re 10 years old, they’re going through too much malnourishment, then they’re never going to recover that brain function.”

Some Republican lawmakers are balking at the cost, which could be as much as $8 billion dollars to fund the legislation over the next decade, but a bipartisan group of lawmakers has said child nutrition is a critical priority.

MANNA serves 16 counties in western North Carolina. The group hopes both the House and Senate vote on the bills before their August break. Stack says there are families waiting for additional assistance, and only some of them are between jobs; others are working.

“The need has increased. Just as you see the unemployment rate nationally is at 10 percent, that means there’s a lot of people out of work. We estimate that more than one-third of the people in western North Carolina seeking emergency food assistance are employed in some fashion.”

The House bill (HR 5504) is “Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act;” the Senate bill (S 3307) is the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.” Current federal funding for child nutrition programs expires on September 30.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service – NC

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