January 10, 2019

Government Shutdown a Threat to Children’s Health

Statement from Kathy Higgins, Chief Executive Officer – Alliance for a Healthier Generation 

With the ongoing government shutdown, we are witnessing a potential cessation of critical in-school and family nutrition programs that would challenge food security for millions of families and children, particularly those from underserved communities. 

For over a decade, Healthier Generation has prioritized the health and well-being of children by supporting schools in creating healthier spaces where all students can thrive. Seventy-nine percent of the 45,000 schools nationwide we support through our Healthy Schools Program are Title I schools, serving lower-income student populations. Each day, 22 million students across these and other schools in America rely upon the provision of healthy and free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches as the greatest source of their daily nutrition, and the foundation upon which they can learn and grow every day. 

Many school districts across the country are fearful about the long-term effects of a government shutdown, particularly as it relates to funding for school meals. With funding for child nutrition programs only guaranteed through March, districts like Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools, a longtime participant in the Healthy Schools Program, are already putting plans in motion to ensure families affected by the shutdown can still receive affordable, healthy meals to fuel their children’s bodies and minds for learning. 

This undue stress cannot become the norm in schools and afterschool programs, which are charged with cultivating our next generation of leaders and citizens. 

In the absence of continued federal funding, the need to keep food on the table – both at home and at school – will disproportionately burden our lowest-income communities and families, and threaten the financial health of school districts nationwide as they face the possibility of absorbing the cost of keeping students fed and ready to learn. 

We, as a society, owe our children and communities much more. 

We know government shutdowns are not novel occurrences. However, this shutdown, with no end in sight, is teetering on a humanitarian crisis for childhood nutrition. It threatens the sustainability of organizations and the livelihoods of many families. 

We believe that at the heart of a healthy, vibrant society is a generation of youth that have the supports in place to thrive. During this moment in our nation’s history, we call on the President and Congress to unhinge any policy differences and politics from the essential work of our government, especially federal programs that are critical to keeping children fed, healthy and thriving.  

Alongside our community partners, Healthier Generation will continue to build on the progress we have seen and reaffirm our commitment to supporting schools and youth programs across the country. We urge you to join us in support of kids’ health and ensure that a healthy future remains in reach for all of America’s children. 

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