By Huey Bergstrom
Culinary entrepreneur Ayesha Curry testified, virtually, in front of the House Rules Committee on the childhood hunger crisis Thursday, noting that more financial support is needed to adequately combat widespread childhood hunger.
Curry is an ambassador for No Kid Hungry, a national campaign run by nonprofit Share Our Strength. Launched in 2010, the campaign has helped bring meals to hundreds of thousands of kids both during the school year and the summer.
Beyond just meals, the program provides children with free classes about nutritional information, explaining that while junk food may be cheaper, it's not the healthiest option for kids. In addition to these resources the program also provides policy suggestions and advocacy based on its research.
During her testimony, Curry, who is the co-founder of the Eat. Learn. Play foundation, highlighted that national and local partnerships are the best solution to the chidlhood hunger crisis in this country.
"We need Congress to strengthen the programs that keep food on the table for kids. This hunger crisis is extremely urgent, more than 13 million kids are living with hunger in our country and this hunger affects everything from their ability to learn, their physical and mental health, the opportunity to reach their full potential and so on. It's completely cyclical," she said.
Furthermore, she noted the this childhood hunger crisis has detrimental effects on all kids but disproportionately hits families of color and children of color.
"I've personally seen hunger in the community of Oakland, but I know that no community, urban, suburban, rural is free from this issue. Food is not an essential school supply, it's the essential school supply and when kids don't get the food they need, it's harder for them to focus in class, effecting everything from test scores to graduation rates," Curry said.
Curry shared the story of a Black mother from the San Antonio neighborhood in Oakland. She's a single mother of two children who attended Garfield Elementary School. Her children were among the nearly 18,000 kids throughout Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) who counted on their school for crucial meals during the week.
Last year, when the pandemic-related shutdown order went into place, Curry noted, tens of thousands of children were left without the means to get adequate nutrition throughout the day.
"March 13, last year, OUSD's school building shut down because of the pandemic and parents like Christina were left wondering where their child's next meal will come from," she testified. "Shortly after that, Christina was layed off from her service industry job because her business closed when local shelter in place orders went into effect.
Curry noted that while Christina's story is nothing new, that fact is devasting and speaks to the crucial resources needed that could help remedy childhood hunger. She commended OUSD's workers for their tireless commitment to the children of their district and asked that Congress bolster support for critical benefits.
Curry pointed to programs like SNAP that need additional federal support to maintain success. She also asked that Congress continue its support for EBT extension during the summer, as that is often the hardest time for children with working parents to maintain consistent nutrition.
"Like I said earlier, it truly takes a village to meet the level of food insecurity caused by the pandemic. Our collaborations with organizations like No Kid Hungry, World Central Kitchen, the Alameda County Community Food Bank, OUSD and so many other wonderul organizations has made an incredible impact for hungry kids and families, but charities alone cannot fill the gaps to make plates full and children whole," Curry said.