Under a proposal filed by a D.C. city council member Tuesday, Washington's poorest students would receive free meals distributed by neighborhood recreation centers on snow days, The Washington Post reports.
Child hunger advocates sound the alarm during harsh winters with frequent school cancellations. Many children who qualify for free and reduced-priced school meals rely on those meals as a primary source of nutrition, they say. According to No Kid Hungry, a Washington-based advocacy organization:
"48.8 million Americans—including 16.2 million children—live in households that lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis. As a result, they struggle with hunger at some time during the year."
So, while snow days mean sledding and sleeping in for many children, they can mean hunger pangs for their peers from lower-income families. In Washington, about 70 percent of the district's 46,500 students qualify for free and reduced-priced lunches. Nationally, about 20 million children eat a free or reduced-price meal every day.
It's a tough problem without an easy answer as district leaders face considerations of safety and community pressure when they decide whether to cancel classes. In many districts, non-profit organizations and food pantries pick up the slack, stocking backpacks of poor students with non-perishable snacks in advance of bad weather. One Indiana district, faced with a supply of food that was about to perish following multiple snow days, donated that food to a local food bank for distribution.