By Liz Ryan, OJJDP Administrator
We want our young people to make good choices, and we strive to create opportunities that will help them grow into healthy, productive adults. That's more likely to happen when their basic needs are met.
For some Americans, affording the essentials—like groceries for their children—may become more difficult on May 11, when the COVID-19 public health emergency expires and they lose pandemic-related benefits they've relied on to make ends meet. Rising food costs exacerbate these concerns. Food prices rose 8.5 percent between March 2022 and March 2023, and they are expected to rise another 6.5 percent by the end of 2023.
In late April, OJJDP released a letter to our grantees describing resources from the U.S. Department of Agriculture—USDA—that can help programs ensure food stability for the youth and families they serve. I'm sharing that vital information here.
USDA's National Hunger Clearinghouse answers questions and identifies resources for food assistance and other social services. To reach the clearinghouse, call the National Hunger Hotline between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. EST (1–866–348–6479 for services in English; 1–877–842–6273 for services in Spanish), or text a keyword—such as "food" or "meals"—to 914–342–7744.
USDA's Summer Food Service Program reimburses approved sites for the meals and snacks they serve for free to children and teens in low-income areas. USDA introduced the federally funded, state-administered program—also called the Summer Meals Program—to ensure that children who receive free or reduced-price meals at school could continue to receive healthy foods during the summer months. The How to Participate in Summer Meals fact sheet describes the program in detail. USDA's National Hunger Clearinghouse can assist with locating Summer Food Serve Program sites.
USDA's Child and Adult Care Food Program reimburses participating sites—including childcare centers, daycare homes, afterschool care programs, Head Start programs, and emergency shelters—for meals and snacks given to eligible children. The program also reimburses adult daycare centers that serve nonresidential adults who have functional disabilities or are ages 60 and older.
USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture addresses hunger and food insecurity in multiple ways, including grant programs for private nonprofits targeting food security issues at the community level. The institute takes a systems approach that involves federal food assistance, food recovery and donations, community food production and marketing, economic and job security, education and awareness, and local infrastructure.
Our young people navigate myriad hurdles every day. Hunger should not be one of them. USDA's initiatives can help ensure that community programs have the resources they need to respond to at least one basic need—feeding our kids. I hope you'll share this information with those who could benefit.