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Ms. TITUS. I rise today in support of H.R. 5012, the Weekends Without Hunger Act.
Last week the House passed a child nutrition bill that takes important steps towards keeping our children healthy and hunger free while in school. This is a goal I strongly support, and that's why I introduced the legislation called Weekends Without Hunger Act, which would help children not be hungry whether or not they are in school.
Across the country, almost one out of every four children is at risk of going hungry. In southern Nevada, over 50 percent of children rely on the free and reduced lunch program. That means that more than 156,000 students are facing hunger at home and many depend on school meals as their main source of food and nutrition throughout the week.
While school meals help keep children healthy and ready to learn during days when school is in session, there is currently no targeted federal child nutrition program available to provide these children with food during the weekend or extended holidays when they do not have access to those school meals.
Especially at this time of year when most of us are having holiday meals with our families and friends, it's important to remember so many children are not enjoying their school vacation because they are going hungry. A vacation from school should not mean hunger for our children.
Food banks around the country, including ThreeSquare food bank in Las Vegas, has stepped up to meet the challenge of hunger on weekends through programs such as Backpack for Kids. In Clark County, Backpack for Kids operates in 178 schools, assembling and delivering approximately 5,200 weekend backpacks each week filled with nutritional, nonperishable foods to provide meals for children in need.
I believe that at the Federal level, we can and should be doing more to support vital programs like Backpack for Kids. That's why I introduced Weekends Without Hunger, which will help children and keep them from going hungry when they are not in school over the weekends and during holidays.
In this tough economic climate, food banks across the country are seeing an increased need for their services. That's especially true in areas hardest hit by unemployment.
While these organizations are doing great work, passing H.R. 5012 would build on their efforts and help them do even better. It would be a great partnership.
H.R. 5012 would establish a 5-year pilot program to provide commodities to eligible institutions such as schools and food banks to provide nutritious food to at-risk school children over the weekend and during school holidays. For example, $10 million would be enough funding for approximately 3 million weekend food backpacks. To ensure that the Federal funds are well spent, the bill also requires an interim and final evaluation of the program by the Secretary of Agriculture.
I urge you all to support H.R. 5012, Weekends Without Hunger. As this Congress moves to give tax breaks to millionaires, I implore you not to forget the children. It is a disgrace that in a country this great and this wealthy that any child should go home and go to bed hungry. So I ask you to vote for this bill, or else go look a hungry child in the eye and tell him or her, You're just not valuable enough to save.
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