For many children, summer is a time of play and relaxation. But for other children, these months are the most difficult in terms of having access to reliable meals.
While schools are on break for the summer, millions of low-income children lose access to healthy breakfasts and lunches provided through in-school nutritional programs. Some of these children access the meals provided through federally- and locally-funded summer feeding programs, but the vast majority -- almost 90 percent -- do not.
Feeding America member food banks and the agencies they serve operate thousands of successful programs that provide free meals to kids during the summer. But we want to be even more successful. The USDA reports than nearly 17 million children in America struggled with hunger in 2008 -- a number that is now certainly even higher. We're seeking ways to constantly innovate new programs and raise awareness and public support for providing meals to these young minds and hearts.
Alongside our many initiatives that fight hunger across the country, we also conduct extensive research on the causes and potential future solutions to domestic hunger. I'm proud to announce that this week, thanks to the support of the ConAgra Foods Foundation, we released an important new study, "Child Food Insecurity in the United States: 2006-2008." The report provides the only comprehensive information about child food insecurity rates at the state level. As we would expect from the 35 percent increase in child hunger nationally in 2008, all but nine states saw an increase in child food insecurity rates in 2008. By providing states with data about child food security, this report enables policymakers and advocates to address the real and growing problem of child hunger nationwide.
I encourage you to visit our website to learn more about these numbers. But more important is the fact that you can make a difference, by encouraging improvements in the federal government's child nutrition programs. These vital initiatives protect the health, education, and security that American children need to thrive. Using our national platform, Feeding America is urging Congress to support a robust Child Nutrition Bill -- specifically, we're encouraging them to support at least $1 billion per year in additional program investments. Children would begin to see the benefits of that investment as early as this autumn.
We must collectively respond to the issue of hunger with the compassion, steadfast resolve, and solidarity that have always fueled our great nation. As you head out with your friends and family to enjoy the Fourth of July weekend, please keep in mind the great potential that exists among our nation's young people, and the fact that for 17 million of them, that potential is often limited by empty stomachs and uncertainty.
Help make the difference by calling on Congress to make improvements to federal programs, and by supporting your local charitable feeding agency.