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Any teacher or parent can tell you a hungry child won’t thrive in school or at home. To many of us, this seems like a problem easily solved by a trip to the kitchen cabinets. However, how does a child deal with hunger when the kitchen cabinets are bare? Children struggling with food insecurity are more likely to face impaired focus, lower math skills, higher chance of repeating a grade, impaired cognitive ability, language and motor skill difficulties, and troubles adapting to the workforce as an adult.

While serving in the Legislature I have focused on addressing a problem that seems ancient — feeding hungry West Virginians. We have had some successes, such as creating the “Shared Table Law,” which allows leftover packaged food to be available to children to take home from school. However, I have found the politics of poverty often difficult to navigate, as we attempt to convince others of the need to ensure that West Virginia families do not go hungry. Many find it incomprehensible that in 2021, 1 in 5 West Virginia children still suffer with food insecurity, which, ironically, reduces prioritization in policy making.

Our difficulty in funding substantial opportunities to feed hungry West Virginians at a state level is why I am so delighted at the passage of Sen. Joe Manchin’s American Rescue Plan. Over the last year of this unprecedented pandemic, we have seen schools closed, businesses shut down and an overall disruption of our normal way of life. Without question, many West Virginia families have found further difficulty in putting food on the table. The American Rescue Plan, which Sen. Manchin’s essential vote allowed to pass, will put food on the table for millions across the country.

Sen. Manchin’s support of the American Rescue Plan has given West Virginia a jumpstart in feeding the hungry in our state. The American Rescue Plan will provide direct funding to West Virginia’s most vulnerable families through existing federal programs. The American Rescue Plan will extend a pandemic- specific feeding program through the summer months, allowing children receiving free or reduced lunch to qualify for nutritional aid while out of the classroom on summer break. Pregnant and postpartum mothers, and children, due to the American Rescue Plan, will have expanded access to fresh produce and other nutritional items.

I hope that we will continue to fight for the most vulnerable West Virginia families and to ensure, someday, no West Virginian goes hungry.

With the passage of the American Rescue Plan, I am ecstatic to congratulate Sen. Manchin for his support of this monumental legislation. The American Rescue Plan provides $1,400 in direct payments for the majority of West Virginians, over $677 million in funding to our counties and municipalities, and many more substantial funding opportunities totaling over $4 billion. I am happy to join Sen. Manchin in his mission to help all West Virginians and am encouraged by this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in funding for our state.

Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell, is a Huntington resident and a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates.

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