Letter: Universal school meals can be a major step forward to end childhood hunger in North Dakota
Melissa Sobolik writes, "At the Great Plains Food Bank, we believe when you feed a child, you feed the future. By making school meals free for all students, it levels the playing field."
As the only food bank in North Dakota, we remain committed to efforts to end hunger in our state. This includes House Bill 1491, which is currently making its way through the state legislature that would provide universal school meals for all.
During the pandemic, we witnessed more people than ever seek food assistance. This led to the USDA and federal government responding by implementing program waivers to make it easier to access federal nutrition programs, which included providing free school lunch and breakfast for all kids . These waivers became a much needed lifeline for many low-income families. While these waivers ended with the pandemic, the need for food assistance remained extremely high. Just how high? In 2022, we saw nearly 140,000 individuals turn to the Great Plains Food Bank for help, which is the second-highest total in our near 40-year history.
HB 1491 is bringing important conversations to North Dakota.
Are we willing to invest in basic needs for our kids?
Are our children worth investing in?
While some may ask if we can afford to feed our kids, I ask, “can we afford not to?”
At the Great Plains Food Bank, we believe when you feed a child, you feed the future. By making school meals free for all students, it levels the playing field.
Childhood hunger is a critical issue, which is why we invest in a range of programs such as our backpack program or school pantry program to help get kids the nutrition they need. Each day we hear from teachers, administrators and counselors that hunger among school-aged children continues to be an issue. We have a responsibility to keep our children fed.
We have a chance with HB 1491 to take a major step forward to end childhood hunger in our state.
Melissa Sobolik is CEO of the Great Plains Food Bank.