WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today joined the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, community leaders, and anti-hunger advocates at Neighborhood Ministries in Youngstown to discuss legislative efforts aimed to combat childhood hunger and promote access to nutritious foods in Ohio schools and underserved communities.
"Families are struggling to regain their footing as our economy recovers. That's why we're taking bold steps to end childhood hunger," said Brown. "Thanks to organizations like Neighborhood Ministries, Children in Youngstown and throughout Ohio can count on getting healthy, nutritious meals, but the federal government must provide new tools and resources to address the challenges posed by food deserts. By improving school nutrition standards and cutting red tape for families and administrators, we can ensure that the most vulnerable children are getting the meals they need to learn and succeed. The next step is ensuring that families - no matter where they live - have access to fresh produce and nutritious foods."
Twenty percent of Ohio children below 18 years of age - nearly 570,000 children - live in food insecure homes. Nationwide, 23.5 million people live in low-income communities that do not have access to a supermarket or large grocery store within one mile of their home. According to a recent study by the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, these food desert numbers are even starker in Youngstown and Warren.
"The Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative is proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Senator Sherrod Brown to release the results of our recent Health Equity Campaign Report, which proves beyond the shadow of a doubt why the Healthy, Hunger Free-Kids Act is so important for our Valley's future," said Executive Director of the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative Kirk Noden.
The Healthy, Hunger Free-Kids Act is a critical piece of legislation for the Mahoning Valley where childhood hunger is as rampant as access to healthy foods in neighborhoods and schools is disparate. This legislation will promote healthy foods in our schools and provide streamlined access to feeding programs for those with the highest need.
As Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Hunger, Nutrition, and Family Farms, Brown helped craft the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The legislation auto-enrolls eligible children and eliminates the duplicative paperwork that costs schools and families valuable time and access to healthy meals.
By modernizing nutritional standards, addressing the sale of junk food and schools, and increasing reimbursement rates to allow for better meals, this legislation helps make healthy food more accessible and affordable. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act dramatically reshapes and update nutrition standards to help reduce childhood obesity rates and put healthier food, including more fruits and vegetables, in school cafeterias.
In addition to improving nutritional standards in school cafeterias across the country, this legislation allows eligible schools in high poverty areas to serve universal free school lunch and breakfast.
According to the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, low-income urban communities, rural communities, and communities of color are especially affected by high rates of obesity, diabetes, and other related diseases. Brown is working to reduce the number of communities bereft of grocery stores. According to an Ohio State University study released in May, 24.6 percent of rural Ohio households live within a 10-minute drive to a fast-food restaurant, but not a large supermarket. With legislation like the Hunger-Free Schools Act, Brown is working to eliminate these food deserts.
Brown is a leading voice in the U.S. Congress for eradicating hunger and improving childhood nutrition.