Baltimore, Md. – March 13, 2009 – Maryland is now one of ten states that can operate the Afterschool Supper Program, which provides nutritional suppers to afterschool and youth development programs in schools located in low-income areas. According to Maryland Hunger Solutions, groups can start to operate the program immediately, benefitting tens of thousands of children across the state.
The Afterschool Supper Program for nonprofits and schools is a little-known program making a big difference for low-income children. The program provides funding so afterschool and youth development programs (like Police Athletic Leagues, Boys and Girls Clubs, church-based programs) in low-income areas can serve dinner each weeknight. Previously only eight states – Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia – have an Afterschool Supper Program. The FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, signed by President Barack Obama on Wednesday, adds Maryland and Vermont to the list.
“When parents are struggling to hold onto jobs or clawing their way back into the workforce and need afterschool care for their children in order to do so, it absolutely makes sense to give this help to afterschool programs to feed their kids,” said Kimberley Chin, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. “Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Donna Edwards, no child in Maryland will walk out the school door at 3 p.m. wondering whether her next meal will be the following morning.”
Rep. Donna Edwards, who championed Maryland’s addition to the Supper Program, pointed out that Maryland is seeing a dramatic increase in the number of children receiving free and reduced-price meals, which is an indicator of rising poverty.
“It is important that our children receive healthy and nutritional meals during their critical years of development,” said Rep. Edwards. “In 2008, 35 percent of Maryland school children received free or reduced meal plans. Specifically in Prince George’s County 47 percent and in Montgomery County 27 percent of all school children participated in free or reduced meal plans. However, due to the affect of the current economic crisis on families, Maryland has seen a dramatic increase in enrollment numbers in just the last two months.”
“Funding for this program will provide tens of thousands of our most vulnerable children with an additional meal each day that will help keep them nourished, healthy, and able to focus on their education. Our children’s health and education must be a top priority and I am honored to have been able to take the lead on getting this funding approved in Congress,” said Rep. Edwards.
The Afterschool Supper Program is a crucial support for struggling parents. As more families struggle with the recession, suppers can help them stretch their food budgets and provide children with healthy food. It also has the added benefit of keeping children on the right track. The nutritious suppers draw children into educational and enrichment activities that keep children learning and safe during the after school hours, which is the time when they are most likely to get into trouble. In fact, afterschool program directors often say that it’s the food that draws hungry children to their programs.
“The Afterschool Supper Program is an important program that will make a tremendous difference for our children,” said Chin. “We applaud Congress for taking this important step, and encourage them to consider adding even more states in the future.”
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Maryland Hunger Solutions, an anti-hunger and nutrition organization, is dedicated to ending hunger in Maryland by raising awareness of the problem among the public, media, and policymakers, and changing policy and practice to connect struggling families to federal nutrition programs. Maryland Hunger Solutions is an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center.