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Connecting vulnerable Delawareans to food, education, opportunity

one tenth Four of our neighbors in Delaware are food insecure. They don’t always get the nutrition they need to live a healthy and active life. at the same time, Quarter People in Delaware lack the home internet connection they need for educational opportunities and financial mobility.

These challenges are interconnected: Broadband can help improve food production and distribution, digital access helps families in need Connect with Programs to End HungerMore importantly, digital access is now essential for families struggling to break the cycle of poverty and climb the economic ladder towards stability, opportunity and security. .

Over the past two years, smart public investment has fostered unprecedented progress in closing both gaps.Includes American Rescue Plan Act over $12 billion to fight hunger, including by providing free school meals to 10 million additional students Nationwide. Meanwhile, the infrastructure bill’s affordable connectivity program allows 200,000 or more Home internet service is free for Delaware residents.

But as funding for these pandemic-era initiatives dwindles, Washington officials are faced with a choice. Either continue to invest in these ladders of opportunity, or throw in the towel and return all the hard-earned progress of the past two years. ?

This summer, Congress took an encouraging step by passing the Keep Our Kids Fed Act. There were only days left before millions of schoolchildren could no longer access free school meals. common sense compromise To ensure the funding and flexibility of schools serving the most vulnerable children.

The next Congress will face similar choices on whether to expand funding for the ACP’s broadband more than 14 million households Already registered and benefiting – that number could triple For all eligible households Sign up.But the program will run out of funds by 2024 If legislators do not act to replenish the coffers.

That would be a big mistake.

A home internet connection is a great equalizer, putting a vast amount of learning opportunities and vocational training resources at your fingertips for anyone with a broadband subscription and a connected device. Low-income households and families of color have long less likely to use the internet at homebut ACP is narrowing this digital divide by removing the cost barrier to going online.

Instead of dragging out the millions of people who used internet service through this program, the focus should be on getting more families to sign up and connect. Delaware can commit additional federal broadband funding to support frontline community organizers who provide digital literacy training and ongoing mentorship. And even if lawmakers in Washington delay funding her ACP, lawmakers in Dover can close the gap and ensure Delaware remains a national leader in expanding digital opportunities. .

It is in everyone’s self-interest to help Delaware build a healthy, vibrant, and digitally literate workforce. Here in the Delaware food bank, saw directly How Investing in Workforce Skills Programs Enhances Economic Mobility – and Since 90% of all jobs Countries created by 2030 will need digital know-how, and states that focus now to build these skills will reap the economic rewards for years to come.

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the importance of a strong safety net.A patchwork of bold (and largely bipartisan) responses, from eviction moratoriums and expanded child tax credits to universal school lunches and broadband subsidies. reduced poverty to a record Nationwide.

With a new Congress taking office this month, Washington’s leaders have a historic opportunity to secure those gains and prevent setbacks. I hope that both parties can work together to get the job done.

Kathy Kanefsky is President and CEO of Food Bank of Delaware.