Fighting Hunger in America Extends Beyond the Classroom
One in five children experiences food insecurity in the United States. The challenge of hunger in America is visible in the public school system. More than half of all students that attend public school, or 51 percent, are members of low-income families. This number is up from 32 percent of children living in poverty in 1989.
Experts in food insecurity know that many public schools have a concentration of food insecure children. In an effort to relieve the problem, programs to alleviate hunger are increasingly being offered through the schools. Food is offered on-campus, during school hours and sometimes to the families of the students, too.
Many students have long received assistance through the free or reduced-price lunch program. Not only do students receive a lunch at a reduced or no cost, they also can come to school early and get a healthy breakfast, too.
Teachers are aware of the impact that hunger can have on learning, such as difficulty focusing. They may keep granola bars and crackers in their desks for students experiencing food insecurity. A 2015 report by No Kid Hungry found that 37 percent of teachers purchased food for a student more than once in any given month. In addition, teachers spend an average of $35 per month on food for hungry students.
Despite all of these strides educators and local food pantries make to combat hunger in America through public schools, there are still many long hours between lunch and the next morning’s breakfast. Even worse, many students suffer through the weekend and school breaks without a healthy meal.
Determined to address all aspects of hunger, many schools across the country are working to supply food insecure children with meals when the school is closed. Dinner is now offered at many schools as part of a program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is estimated that in 2014, 108 million after-school meals were served.
Schools are also getting creative with unused classrooms, converting them to food pantries. In many cases, the school can partner with their local food bank to keep the pantry stocked with nutritious foods. The pantries are often available to not only students at the schools, but also their families.
At Second Harvest Community Food Bank, we are working daily on direct programs to end hunger in America as it affects our local neighbors. We offer Campus Cupboard, a food pantry located on various school campuses. We supply children with healthy meals via Backpack Buddies, in which they receive a healthy breakfast, a healthy lunch and a healthy snack for each weekend during the school year.
If you would like to get involved with providing food resources for our neighbors, there are many ways to help. Whether you donate time, money or food to Second Harvest, we will use it to distribute food to the children that need it. Call us today to find out how to join our mission to build hunger-free communities.