While DC Action has always recognized the importance of health, nutrition, and safety as indicators of the well-being of children and youth in the district, we are excited to increase our attention to these issues with Hannah Francis in the new position of Food Security and Health Program Coordinator.
Francis’ priorities will be monitoring local federal nutrition programs, public health insurance programs, and community safety initiatives as well as mobilizing DC Action’s supporters to action when needed.
During its 2021-2022 legislative session, the DC Council passed Give SNAP a Raise, which provides local dollars to augment families’ federal supplemental nutrition benefits. DC Action will mobilize support for full funding of the legislation, which would result in an increased benefit of 10% of a household’s federal maximum monthly allotment. In other words, the District will be supplementing residents’ allotments so they receive SNAP benefits that are the equivalent of the federal Low Cost Food Plan, instead of the federal Thrifty Food Plan. The Low Cost Food Plan provides a somewhat higher benefit than the Thrifty Food Plan. The Give SNAP a Raise legislation increases benefits by an average of $47 per household per month. For example, a family of three with a net income of $1,000 per month would see their monthly benefits go from $358 to $419. A similar family with a monthly income of $2,000 would see their benefits raised from $58 to $129.
DC Action will also promote the passage of the Universal School Meals Act, introduced in January 2023 by Councilmember Christina Henderson to ensure that all students in DC public schools will have access to free, healthy school breakfasts and lunches. During the pandemic, federal legislation provided universal school meals across the country, which significantly increased the health and nutrition of millions of children and decreased food insecurity for millions of families. Unfortunately that authorization ended in 2022. This new local legislation would ensure that students are receiving the food they need to grow and thrive.
In collaboration with DC Hunger Solutions, DC Action will conduct research for and publish a report on early childhood hunger in the District. The project will include focus groups with early learning programs and families about their experiences with federal nutrition programs and will be used to eliminate barriers that District residents face.
“We are looking for new ways to make an impact, to make sure we’re addressing intergenerational food insecurity in the District,” explained Francis. “Hunger and food insecurity are entirely preventable. We have the knowledge, but we need to finish connecting the dots. That’s not just going to come from legislation alone, but requires deep investment in the community.”
Programs included in DC Action’s health, nutrition, and safety portfolio are:
- Child and Adult Care Food Program
- DC Healthy Families
- DC Medicaid
- DC WIC
- Immigrant Children’s Program
- National School Lunch Program
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
One example of Francis’ work with DC WIC is to monitor the transition from paper vouchers to electronic benefits, which launched last year. “We were so happy because eWIC started out as a pilot program, then they rolled it out in full,” Francis explained. “With the conclusion of some pandemic benefits (even though the pandemic is not actually over), some exceptions are ending, such as the ability to register online for WIC. Now people have to register in person again. As a result, people are leaving the program not because they don’t need the nutrition benefits anymore, but because they don’t know how to access it. DC Action will make sure the community is aware of their benefits and how to find them, and that the community’s voice is heard by the agencies that administer these programs.”
Currently, DC Action works closely with DC Hunger Solutions and the Fair Budget Coalition’s Food Policy Committee on health, nutrition, and safety issues. “We have great partnerships making a difference in the lives of children and youth.”
Contact Hannah Francis at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.