Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell Join Texas Hunger Initiative and Share Our Strength to Kick Off 'Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign'

Partnership Aims to End Childhood Hunger By Utilizing Existing Nutrition Programs and Launching a Breakfast Pilot Program in 10 Districts Across the State

Oct 12, 2011, 15:35 ET from Share Our Strength

AUSTIN, Texas, Oct. 12, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Texas Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) joined Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and a diverse group of corporate, education, nonprofit and government leaders to kick off the Texas No Kid Hungry® Campaign.

The Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign is a public-private partnership with the nation's leading child anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength® and the Texas Hunger Initiative, a capacity-building collaborative project out of Baylor University's School of Social Work. The campaign aims to end childhood hunger by using proven strategies to increase the number of Texas children who eat the nutritious meals offered at schools such as the School Breakfast and Summer Meals Programs.

"Texas leads the nation in many things, but child hunger should not be one of them," said Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. "By working with the No Kid Hungry Campaign, we can take steps toward ending childhood hunger in this state. Our strength comes from our partnerships, and it will take everyone, including educators, elected officials, corporations, government agencies, community leaders, and most importantly, parents to ensure our children have a healthy start in life."

A recent report ranks Texas as a national leader for child food insecurity, with more than 1.8 million children in the state at risk of hunger. Another new report by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that nearly one in five Texans (4.41 million) are living in poverty.

The partnership's focus during its first year is to connect more eligible low-income children to federally funded school breakfast and summer meals. Studies show that students who do not eat breakfast have slower memory recall, make more errors, are more likely to be absent or tardy, and have a higher likelihood of repeating a grade.

"Kids who face hunger can't focus and fall behind in virtually every way," said Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. "We have the necessary programs to make certain that every child in Austin and across the state receives the food they need to live healthy, active lives. By working together, we can better connect families with kids at risk of hunger with resources they need to receive regular, nutritious meals."

Nearly all Texas public schools (99 percent) offer low-income kids a nutritious breakfast at a free or reduced price so they can start their day off right. However, of the more than 2.4 million students in the state who get a free or reduced-price lunch at school, less than 1.4 million (56 percent) participate in the School Breakfast Program.

Reasons for low participation include stigma, transportation barriers and lack of awareness of the program. The Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign is taking proven steps to close the school breakfast gap by launching a pilot program with 10 school districts across the state using a variety of strategies that have worked successfully in other states to increase school breakfast participation.

"USDA's federal nutrition assistance programs provide a valuable safety net against hunger and are critical to the health and well being of many Americans," said Bill Ludwig, USDA Food and Nutrition Service Southwest Regional Administrator. "Partnerships like the Texas No Kid Hungry campaign bring resources together and help us reach the goal of ending childhood hunger."

"We are kicking off a school breakfast pilot program with five districts interested in expanding their breakfast program, and we plan to launch this program in 10 districts across the state by the end of the year. By trying new meal delivery models, including Breakfast in the Classroom and Grab n' Go Meals, we hope to increase breakfast participation and arm kids with the morning nutrition needed to excel in school," said Jeremy Everett, Director of the Texas Hunger Initiative. "In addition to increasing school breakfast participation, the Texas Hunger Initiative is committed to developing strategies to end hunger through policy, education, and community organizing and development."

The Texas Hunger Initiative is leading the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign, in partnership with Share Our Strength, and is convening a collaborating table of key stakeholders across the state, including Texas Department of Agriculture. With support from lead sponsor Walmart, Share our Strength is investing more than $200,000 in the first year of the campaign. The Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign is also supported by Maximus, as well as through local supporters such as Dairy Max.

"Our focus is on long-term change, the difference between feeding a child today and making sure no child in the U.S. ever goes hungry again," said Bill Shore, Chairman and CEO of Share Our Strength. "We are pleased to be working with the Texas Hunger Initiative and believe that together we can end childhood hunger here in Texas and nationwide."

"Walmart is proud to sponsor the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign to help draw attention to the important issue of childhood hunger that many children, families and communities across our state face every day," said Julie Martin, Regional General Manager of Walmart Stores. "Our $100,000 contribution today is part of Walmart and its Foundation's $2 billion dollar commitment to eradicate hunger. Our work here today is an important part of that effort."

The partnership will also work to make certain children receive regular, nutritious meals when school lets out for summer. Currently, only 9 percent of Texas kids who get a free or reduced-price school lunch also get a free summer meal.  

Share Our Strength supports No Kid Hungry partnerships in 14 other states and will launch three more in 2011. These partnerships have seen tremendous success. Colorado No Kid Hungry and Hunger Free Colorado worked with Gov. Bill Ritter and the Commissioner of Education to launch the Colorado School Breakfast Challenge, which resulted in the state serving almost 330,000 more breakfasts in October 2010 than in October 2009, a 17 percent increase.

Share Our Strength's national No Kid Hungry efforts are also supported by core partners ConAgra Foods Foundation and the Food Network. Go to www.NoKidHungry.org/Texas to learn more about the partnership. Visit www.Strength.org to learn more about Share Our Strength.

Ariane Holm | aholm@strength.org | C: 571-213-6465 | O: 202-649-4350
Lindsey Gehrig | lgehrig@echristianpr.com | C: 512-659-6111 | O: 512-494-2865

SOURCE Share Our Strength