Children across West Virginia have been experiencing food insecurity for far too long. As a father of four, it breaks my heart to know that right now 1 in 5 children in West Virginia is struggling with hunger and facing long negative health effects as a result. Our lawmakers must act now to ensure that every child in West Virginia has the opportunity to live a full and healthy life.
Congress has the opportunity to fight child hunger by supporting the Build Back Better agenda, which will expand free meals to 9.3 million more children nationwide during the school year and invest $25 billion in programs that provide a $75 per child per month benefit to families of children eligible for free and reduced-price school meals to purchase nutritious foods during the summer. This critical investment will ensure that West Virginia’s children have access to the food that they need year round.
Addressing food insecurity has been one of my top priorities in the House of Delegates, which is why I formed the bipartisan Hunger Caucus and sponsored the Shared Table Law, which allows children to take leftover packaged food from school home with them. With a newly created Food Insecurity Workgroup in the House, we are committed to taking bold action on the state level. However, we also know that West Virginia can’t defeat child hunger alone. We need federal assistance now.
Food insecurity can have lasting impacts on a child’s health and development. Reports have shown that children who experience food insecurity are at an increased risk of serious diseases later in life like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Without access to adequate nutrition, children are also more likely to experience impaired language and motor skills. By investing in nutrition assistance programs, the Build Back Better agenda will set West Virginia’s children up for a healthy life.
Food insecurity also threatens our children’s ability to thrive in school. Research has shown that children who experience hunger are more likely to repeat a grade, come to school late, or skip school entirely. Academic performance is also dependent on a child receiving adequate nutrition, as studies show hungry children report lower math scores. Schools that offer their students a free balanced breakfast report increased attentiveness and improved student behavior. By ensuring no child goes hungry, the Build Back Better agenda will set our children up for academic success.
West Virginia leaders can’t let children go hungry any longer. Congress must invest in our children and their futures. I ask our leaders in Washington to support the Build Back Better agenda and deliver the nutrition assistance programs West Virginia’s kids desperately need.