The Child Nutrition and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Act authorizes all of the federal school meal and child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program, among others. These programs are among the most effective in eradicating hunger, with far-reaching impacts on the long-term educational and economic security of kids who receive the meals. In 2008, more than 30 million students received reduced cost or free lunches at school, while 10.6 million received breakfast. Unfortunately, only 2.1 million students received meals over the summer months, when school is out - but hunger does not disappear.
This year, Congress will review how these programs are working and vote on reauthorizing them so that kids can continue to get healthy food. Congress must be urged to include grants and plans to expand access to the programs to as many children as possible.
The Torah is explicit in the command that we feed the hungry and help eradicate hunger from our society. Leviticus 23:22 tells us, "And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger. I the Eternal am your God." In Isaiah 58:7, God commands us to "share [our] bread with the hungry and bring the homeless into [our] house." The Jewish tradition mandates us not just to act individually to end hunger, but as a community. The Talmud explains that each Jewish community must establish a public fund to provide food for the hungry, and our sages explain that feeding the hungry is one of our most important responsibilities on earth: "When you are asked in the world to come, ‘What was your work?' and you answer: ‘I fed the hungry,' you will be told: ‘This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry'" (Midrash to Psalm 118:17).
Urge your members of Congress to support increased and improved access to Child Nutrition programs when the law is reauthorized this year. The Capitol Switchboard can be reached at 202.224.3121, or you can send an e-mail by entering your zip code below. For more information, please contact Legislative Assistant David Goodman at 202.387.2800.