Childhood hunger moving to the suburbs

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Childhood hunger in the U.S. may be generally seen as a city problem, but Nick Arent, Virginia organizer for the Fair Share Education Fund, says that’s not the case.

The advocacy group crunched the numbers from the National School Lunch Program and found that many of the nation’s suburbs are seeing increases in the number of kids eligible for free lunches.

“We’re seeing much more often that hunger is happening in our suburbs, and it’s something that people aren’t realizing,” Arent says.

In the D.C. area, researchers comparing the 2006-2007 school year to the 2010-2011 year saw a 7.7 percent hike in the number of kids eligible for for the National School Lunch Program.

“We believe that a large part of it was the Great Recession,” Arent says.

Statewide, 16.5 percent of Virginia’s school kids were eligible for the national lunch program — roughly one in six kids needing food assistance.

Parents are struggling, according to Arent, “with making enough money and getting by. And that’s just really something that we need to solve, because we can’t let our kids go hungry.”

The group hopes the numbers will shed more light on the problem and encourage communities to bring in more programs that help feed hungry school kids.

“When schools do that, and they start offering free breakfast to every kid, they’ve been noticing that kids show up to school on time, that they’re learning more, that they’re doing better,” Arent said.

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