Friday, April 27, 2012

Testimony from DC Hunger Solutions

Its always great to see non-traditional partners testify at budget hearings on behalf of youth programming. Below is the testimony of Alex Ashbrook, from DC Hunger Solutions on why we need a stable CYITC.

Submitted Written Testimony  
Alexandra Ashbrook, Director
D.C. Hunger Solutions

Good morning. I am Alexandra Ashbrook and I direct D.C. Hunger Solutions, an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center. Our mission is to end hunger and improve the nutrition, health, economic security, and well-being of low-income residents in the District of Columbia. I welcome this opportunity to submit testimony on the importance of out-of-school time programs as a key tool in the fight against childhood hunger.  Underscoring my comments is a dismal statistic: more than 37 percent of District households with children – the highest rate in the nation – reported experiencing food hardship (defined as not having enough money in the past 12 months to buy food for themselves or their family) according to the Food Research and Action Center’s analysis of Gallup polling data in 2010.

Many of my colleagues will be testifying on the important role of the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation (CYITC) in funding out-of-school time programs— often by leveraging public and private funds—and  supporting the quality of these programs through training, best practices, and evaluation tools.  And while I concur that the District needs an entity like the CYITC to support quality out-of-school time programming, my comments will focus on how such an entity is also helping to reduce childhood hunger and improve nutrition for thousands of District children and teens. Without CYITC guiding the network of out-of-school time programs and keeping them financially afloat, D.C. could see hundreds of children lose access to nutritious meals, especially those most at risk of going hungry. 


  • CYITC funding helps support afterschool and summer programs where kids are not only safe, engaged, and learning, but are also fed nutritious meals through federal nutrition programs. Afterschool and summer programs that CYITC supports are eligible for federal nutrition funding to serve meals to the children and teens in their care through the Summer Food Service Program (AKA the D.C. Free Summer Meals Program) and the Afterschool Meal Program.  By connecting thousands of children and teens to federally-funded meals, these nutrition programs not only reduce food insecurity and hunger, but improve nutrition, health, early childhood development, school achievement, and overall well-being.  If CYITC funding were not available, many of these out-of-school time programs could fold, decrease the number of children served, or cut back on the number of days or hours programs were available.  As a result, children would suffer a double loss, losing access to both enrichment programming and free meals.

  • CYITC requires that all grantees receiving funding for summer programs participate in the D.C. Free Summer Meals Program, thereby wisely helping summer programs connect to federal funding.  When CYITC funds summer programs, programs agree to participate in D.C. Free Summer Meals. Because of this requirement, children and teens, particularly those who rely on free school meals, can get free breakfast and lunch when school lets out for the summer at summer programs. The programs benefit financially because CYITC monies do not have to be spent on food since food is free via the D.C. Free Summer Meals Program, which is funded by federal entitlement monies.  Finally, programs benefit because food helps draw children and teens into programs that keep them safe and engaged. This is a winning requirement made possible because CYITC funds and monitors a large number of sites.

·         CYITC could further help promote nutrition at community-based afterschool programs by serving as an Afterschool Meal Program sponsor.  Currently, CYITC does not require sites to participate in the Afterschool Meal Program.  While all CYITC funded programs located in D.C. Public Schools have access to a free supper through the Afterschool Meal Program, many community-based afterschool programs have not been able to participate in the relatively new federal Afterschool Meal Program because of administrative issues.  (The Afterschool Meal Program started in December 2009 in Washington, DC as a federal pilot.) Up until this year, smaller afterschool programs were reluctant to participate because of challenges in understanding and meeting the evolving health and safety standards necessary for program participation.  These barriers have been addressed and now smaller afterschool programs at churches, community sites, or social service agencies can meet the health and safety standards. However, while some have joined the program, many smaller afterschool programs simply do not have the administrative capacity to operate the Afterschool Meal Program. For instance, afterschool programs may not have funding to cover their meal costs prior to receiving their reimbursement, and smaller programs that operate on a shoestring budget may have trouble “fronting” the funds. Other programs may not have a kitchen or food service experience and have difficulty getting a vendor to prepare and deliver a relatively small number of meals at an affordable price.
One way to overcome these barriers is for a larger organization—such as CYITC —to sponsor Afterschool Meals for multiple afterschool programs in the community. The Family League of Baltimore City takes on this role for more than one hundred afterschool programs in Maryland, making healthy nutritious after school meals a reality for 7,000 children and teens.  This model brings in federal funds to pay for the staff time that the Family League spends on administering the program, as well as millions of dollars in funding to feed hungry children a healthy supper. Like the CYITC, the Family League of Baltimore City is a quasi-governmental nonprofit organization that works with a range of partners to develop and implement initiatives that improve the well-being of Baltimore’s children, youth and families.

By sharing best practices and helping surmount administrative hurdles, a body such as CYITC allows for a range of out-of-school time programs to more readily participate in key federal nutrition programs.  In conclusion, all children in the nation’s capital deserve and need the opportunity to benefit from afterschool and summer programs that keep them challenged, learning, and safe. 
Respectfully submitted,

Alexandra Ashbrook, Director
D.C. Hunger Solutions
1875 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 540
Washington, DC 20009
p: (202) 986-2200 ext 3019

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