Many low-income families struggle to afford enough food. Mothers and young children can participate in the federal government’s WIC food program for kids under 5. Children who are old enough to go to public school can participate in free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch programs. Nationally, public schools served 1.8 billion free breakfasts in 2015 and even more free or reduced price lunches.But children who age out of the WIC program but are not yet old enough to attend school sometimes go hungry. Colleen Heflin, a professor at the University of Missouri, recently published research on kids who fall into that gap. She found that a lack of nutritious food can have lasting effects on children.
A bill in the U.S. Senate would raise the age limit for the WIC program. But last year, the program more than $6 billion dollars and extending eligibility to more children will likely face an uphill battle in Congress.
This story was produced by Kristofer Husted of Harvest Public Media, a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Harvest covers agriculture-related topics through a network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.