Dem Radio address: Alfond says, “Let’s accept the challenge to be the first state in the nation to end childhood hunger.”
Childhood hunger is something that is easily overlooked. Or, even forgotten.
But, right now in Maine, there are 86,473 children who are hungry. Who are they and where do they live? Well, hungry children–children who are food insecure–live in all sixteen of our counties.
Hunger doesn’t discriminate between northern Maine and southern Maine or between rural and urban. Today, in the Casco, Poland, and Raymond region, there are or 2,758 hungry children. And, in Portland, where I live, there are 3,712.
Good Morning. This is State Senator Justin Alfond–the Senate Democratic Leader.
Each day there are thousands of children who go to bed hungry and wake up even hungrier– we are letting Maine children down until we solve this problem.
But, childhood hunger isn’t just a family problem or just a school problem. And so, we can’t just look to schools and families to have the solution.
After months of working with experts– those people who are out in the field working day in and day out on ending childhood hunger–the Task Force to End Student Hunger, presented our plan to solve childhood hunger in Maine within five years.
It’s an ambitious goal but it’s one that we think we can achieve. As John Woods from Full Plates Full Potential says, “solving childhood hunger is complex but feeding a child is easy.”
Our plan, our ideas don’t require much state money. But it is a plan that needs total buy-in from all who care about our state.
We need state government to be a leader in collaborating with the private sector, non-profits and volunteers so that we can finally end childhood hunger in Maine.
It shouldn’t take much convincing that childhood hunger is an issue worth tackling. We know that having access to enough food–and the right food, plays a huge role in the health and academic success for our children–and consequently their future success.
We know that food makes a difference in academic performance. For example, every time our students take a test like the SATs or the NECAP, food is provided. Why? Because we don’t want our test-takers to be distracted by a growling belly. We want them to be at the top of their game so that they are focused for the next few hours on testing well.
And so with Maine ranking first in New England and third in the nation for food insecurity –hungry children– I accept the challenge from Amy Gallant of Preble Street’s Maine Hunger Initiative: “Let’s challenge ourselves to be the first state in the nation to end childhood hunger.”
We have three action items that can make a difference. First, we must activate public-private partnerships like those between schools, farms, the private sector, food distributors, and the state.
Second, we must increase increase participation in the child nutrition programs in and outside of Maine’s schools;
And, third, we absolutely must capture the nearly $50 million dollars in unused federal funding that is already earmarked for Maine nutrition programs.
By doing these three things, we can ensure that our children have the nutritional building blocks for success in school and out on the playground.
Thank you for listening. This is State Senator Justin Alfond. Be safe and warm during this wintery weekend!