Pittsburgh, PA – Standing inside the Kingsley Association in Pittsburgh, PA, school meals whistleblower Stacy Koltiska, who recently quit her job as a school food worker in the Canon-McMillan, Pa. school district to protest the district’s denial of hot meals to low-income children, today joined with prominent national and local anti-hunger leaders to call for the federal government to make free lunches and breakfasts available to all students. They all also reinforced the importance of voting in this election, saying that the election’s outcome will determine how much the federal government does or does not do to address Pennsylvania’s and America’s high levels of child hunger.
Ms. Koltiska resigned from her job as an elementary food services worker to protest the policy of Canon-McMillan, Pa. school district under which children whose families owed as little as $25 in school meals payments would be given a cold cheese sandwich rather than the hot meal provided to other students. The local school board has since changed the school lunch policy to kick in at $50.
Responding to that policy change, Ms. Koltiska said: “Increasing the threshold is a step in the right direction, but I still think it’s wrong to deny the best meals to kids just because their parents can’t afford to pay. Depriving struggling kids of good nutrition not only violates my religious beliefs, but is horrible public policy, because it makes it harder for children to stay healthy and do well in school. We should just make all meals free and available to all kids. We feed our prisoners three meals a day, we should certainly be able to Feed Our Children while they are in school.”
How many children received school breakfast, school lunch, and summer meals – and how much parents do or do not have to pay for such meals – is determined largely by the federal Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill, which is currently being considered by Congress and must be approved by the current or next U.S. President.
Said Ken Regal, Executive Director Just Harvest, a non-partisan food justice organization based in Pittsburgh, “The stakes of childhood hunger are high: the effects of poor nutrition are devastating to growing children. Congress needs to seize the opportunity that the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization provides to strengthen and protect the policies and programs that make sure all children have what they need. Free and nutritious school meals are in many ways the building blocks of our nation.”
Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a non-partisan, nationwide advocacy and direct services organization said, “For students to be schooled, they must be fueled. To be well-read, they must be well fed. Good student nutrition is a pillar of educational performance and that can best be assured by free meals for all children, which the federal government should fund. Voters must take this election as seriously as if their children’s health and well-being — and that of their neighbor’s children – depends on the outcome, because it does. Plainly put: this election will help decide whether millions of U.S. children go hungry or get proper nutrition. The stakes are that high.”
In Pennsylvania, roughly one in five children – equaling about half a million kids – live in homes that can’t afford enough food. Nationwide, about 18 percent of U.S. children – equaling about 13 million kids – struggle against hunger.
Hunger Free America (formerly known as the New York City Coalition Against Hunger) is a national nonprofit group building a nonpartisan, grass-roots membership movement to enact the policies and programs needed to end domestic hunger and ensure that all Americans have sufficient access to nutritious food.
Just Harvest educates, empowers and mobilizes people to eliminate hunger, poverty, and economic injustice in our communities by influencing public policy, engaging in advocacy, and connecting people to public benefits.