On Heels of New Study Showing 1 in 8 Colorado Households Going Hungry, Bennet Makes Push to Fight Child Hunger, Improve Public Health

As Overall Hunger Rates Go Down Over Three Years in Colorado, Study Shows that Problem Increased in 2009 as Economic Crisis Continues to Hurt Families

Bennet Pushes Bills to Streamline Process for Enrolling Children From Low-Income Families in Nutrition Assistance Programs

On the heels of a new study that found 1 in 8 Colorado households lack dependable access to adequate food, as well as recent reports showing more children in Colorado are living in poverty, Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, today pushed lawmakers to revisit the role the federal government can play in fighting child hunger and improving public health.

In a statement to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Bennet cited the study and growing enrollment in child nutrition programs as need to improve access to critical nutrition programs for children in families hard-hit by the economic recession.

"As a father of three school-aged girls and a former superintendent, I know that kids perform better when their stomachs are full," said Bennet. "If we want to educate a nation of future leaders, we need to make sure our kids -- particularly poor kids -- have access to the healthy, nutritious food they need to grow, learn and thrive."

According to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study released yesterday, one in eight Colorado households has faced hunger problems. Although Colorado is one of thirteen states nationally that saw a drop in the percentage of households struggling with hunger, the problem has only become more pronounced as more families are forced to cope with the economic recession.

Moreover, the number of Colorado children living in poverty grew 72 percent from 2000 to 2008 - the nation's highest rate of growth, according to the Colorado Children's Campaign (CCC).

In addition, according to the CCC, child nutrition has a significant impact on learning. Chronic hunger has been shown to shorten attention spans and impede a child's concentration, making it difficult to learn. Citing a wide range of studies, the CCC also found participation in school breakfast programs has, in many cases, resulted in decreased behavioral problems, reduced visits to the school nurse and better daily attendance.

However, despite recent gains made by the State, according to the Colorado Coalition to End Hunger, just 38 percent of children in Colorado who eat free and reduced price school lunches participate in the school breakfast program.

Earlier this year, Bennet joined Senators Sherrod Brown and Bob Casey in introducing the Hunger Free Schools Act, which would ensure every child has adequate access to healthy and nutritious meals at school during the school year and during the summer months.

The legislation would improve the number of kids who eat school meals by enabling schools and school districts to serve free meals to all students in very low-income areas without jumping through the administrative hurdles that currently exist. The bill would also enable states to use income data from Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) data in addition to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) data to automatically enroll kids for school meals, making sure paperwork doesn't prevent needy children from getting the nutrition they need to learn, grow and thrive.