VA BLOC Fights Childhood Hunger

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 26, 2019    
CONTACT:  Cameron Bell, cbell@va-bloc.org

Local Organization Fights Childhood Hunger

HAMPTON, VA – Virginia Black Leadership Organizing Collaborative, VA BLOC, presented donations to Newport News Public Schools Child Nutrition Services and Hampton City Schools Food and Nutrition Services today to help erase school meal debt. VA BLOC members created The Care Project to raise funds and awareness about school meal debt and childhood hunger, while working towards policy change.  

In Hampton City Schools, prior to June 5, 2019, school meal debt was sent to debt collectors, potentially jeopardizing the financial security of families who already struggle to make ends meet. As of June 5, 2019, the policy was changed to send school meal debt to the City Treasurer’s Office, but questions still remain as to the impact on the families.  Furthermore, there are schools in Hampton that qualify for schoolwide free breakfast and lunch but have not been enrolled in the program. This means that about 3400 students are not receiving the benefit despite belonging to eligible school communities. 

VA BLOC member Mahogany Waldon reflected on her personal story of living in the gap of eligibility saying, “Although my family made too much to qualify for free or reduced lunch, we still saw the financial strain that making ‘just enough to not qualify’ invokes.”  Waldon continued, “If my parents, that were in a pretty stable socioeconomic status, had troubles or woes about the costs of school lunch then imagine how parents who fall into the income gap feel.”

Newport News Public Schools, in converse, has been proactive in expanding the free school meal program to eligible schools. Taking these measures is positively impacting the students as a direct correlation has been derived between access to meals during the school day and student health and success.

Tara Lynch, another member of VA BLOC, explained why the group is committed to amplifying the voices of affected families, stating, “no child deserves to go hungry.” 

VA BLOC raised $3400 to help erase school meal debt this year as part of The Care Project and the amount was split between Hampton and Newport News for the checks presented today.  Further, Lead Organizer of VA BLOC, Cameron Bell stated, “We are asking everyone in Hampton to reach out to their school board members and urgently ask for the remaining eligible schools to be added to the Community Eligibility Provision by the June 30th application deadline.” Bell continued, “This would be life-changing for the students at the remaining eligible schools.  We look forward to furthering our work with community members on their requests for our school board representatives.” 

To learn more about the project, please visit VABLOCCareProject.com

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Here are some pictures from today’s check deliveries to Hampton and Newport News

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The Care Project

Paying for school meals should not be a burden!

Did you know?

Some of our neighbors can’t afford to feed their children three meals a day and families often go hungry.  This includes some of them not being able to afford school meals and going into debt to provide breakfast and lunch for their children. Some of those children end up hungry because they could not eat.

Hunger can impact a child’s….

  • Physical growth and development
  • Immune system
  • Brain development and behavior
  • Ability to learn and retain information
  • Academic achievement

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Did you know?

The available relief to families does not meet the full need in our community.

In 2018, students living at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Line qualified for reduced price breakfast and lunch while students living at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Line qualified for free breakfast and lunch. But many advocates agree that living at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line, which was an income of $49,200 for a family of 4 in 2017 is still considered economically disadvantaged, meaning, families struggle to make basic ends meet like food, housing, and transportation. 

That means there are people in a loop hole of sorts, they make too much money to qualify for help but not enough money to cover all of their obligations and bills.  Some of these families in Newport News and Hampton have racked up School Meal Debt and can’t pay it.  They may be in danger of further financial insecurity if their debt goes any further.

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What can we do about it?

We are trying to help the problem in two ways:

  1. Addressing the families that need help NOW
  2. Helping prevent this from happening to more families

Here’s what you can do:

Donate today!

  • Last year, we made 75% of our goal.  Let’s aim for 100% this year!  We are trying to raise $3,400 to erase school meal debt.  Every single penny we raise will go toward erasing school meal debt for local students in Newport News and Hampton public schools. Click here to donate today!

Sign up!!

  • Join us in this fight!  Learn more about how you can impact policies and help families who need us.  We had our last meeting in March and we are in the planning process for our next actions.  Join the team and stay up to date on upcoming events, actions, opportunities, and initiatives with VA BLOC by signing up at: tinyurl.com/vabloc

Celebrate the work so far!!

  • In 2018, we collected $3743 of our $5000 goal thanks to your generosity!  On Tuesday, June 26, 2018, VA BLOC, Rev. Maxwell with InTouch CDC and New Beech Grove Baptist Church, and Valerie Price of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church and Lambda Omega Chapter of AKAs delivered the checks to the Newport News and Hampton school systems nutrition services offices to help pay off some of the debt. We tried to help relieve their debt before it goes any further and threatens the family’s financial security.  Not all of the division’s debt was covered, showing that we have more work to do on both fundraising and policy change.

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  • We have also reached more than 2,000 people, raising awareness about School Meal Debt, the impacts of Childhood Hunger, and how to advocate for change!