Part of our mission at Louisiana Progress is to produce policies that promote economic opportunity for all Louisianians and to act as a policy and research hub for the progressive movement in our state. To that end, we work closely with other organizations throughout the state to offer best practice policies and technical assistance to elected officials, local governments, and state departments.
This past spring’s legislative session, we worked with lawmakers Representative Ledricka Thierry (D-Opelousas) and Representative Robert Billiot (D-Westwego) to form policy task forces through legislative action around two key issues to ending poverty in Louisiana — summer hunger and youth aging out of foster care.
The Summer Hunger Task Force will bring together school superintendents, community partners, and representatives of both rural and urban parts of the state to develop a plan to tackle summer hunger among students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch.
Child hunger is a major issue in Louisiana, where 24% of all children face food insecurity. As of June 2013, 413,000 low-income children in Louisiana receive free or reduced-price school lunch. The USDA administers the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) which provides free lunch to all children 18 and under in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children. However, only 9% of children eating free or reduced-price lunch are getting summer meals, and at least 35,000 students with free or reduced-price lunch in Louisiana lived in a parishes without Summer Food Service Program sites. This fall, the Summer Hunger Task Force will work to determine why participation in SFSP is so low and what steps the state and individual school districts can take to increase awareness of and participation in SFSP, especially in areas with high rates of food insecurity.
Also this fall, the Task Force on Youth Aging Out of Foster Care will study public policy and financing options for youth aging out of foster care. Young people who transition from foster care without support experience very poor outcomes at a much higher rate than the general population:
- More than one in five will become homeless after age 18.
- Only 58% will graduate high school by age 19 (compared to 71% of all 19 year olds in Louisiana).
- 71% of young women are pregnant by 21, facing higher rates of unemployment, criminal conviction, public assistance, and involvement in the child welfare system.
- At the age of 24, only half are employed.
- Fewer than 3% will earn a college degree by age 25 (compared to 28% of all 25 year olds).
- One in four will be involved in the justice system within two years of leaving the foster care system.
The task force includes state officials, former foster youth, and direct service providers and will come together to study best practices in programs for youth aging out of foster care as well as funding mechanisms to make them possible. We’re looking forward to contributing to the work of these task forces, and hope to hear your voice on these issues! If you have something to contribute to these conversations, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.