Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: An astonishing one out of five children within our community is food-insecure. Child hunger doesn’t just affect children. It affects parents and our society as a whole.
When children grow up with chronic hunger, we know that they experience significant physiological damage because their growing bodies don’t get the nutrition they need. Children also suffer psychological damage because they don’t have the sense of security that comes from knowing where their next meal is coming from.
Food is the most basic daily need. As a parent myself, I can imagine the anguish a parent faces when they struggle financially to the point where they can’t always have enough food to feed their children. Not being able to provide for your child destroys a parent’s self-worth. Many parents face it on a daily basis and many more found themselves in this boat for the first time during the housing crash in 2008.
Studies have shown that food-insecure children fall behind their friends in academic achievement. Children are the future of this country, as we all know, so not providing adequate nutrition now will ultimately negatively affect all aspects of this nation.
To address child hunger, we have programs at the Food Bank that cater specifically to children. Farm 2 Kids helps low-income children have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. We partner with after-school programs in low-income areas in eligible school districts. Children take home three to five pounds of produce weekly.
Our School Pantry Program provides nutritious, nonperishable food to students attending qualified low-income schools. Located on school grounds, the pantries offer middle school and high school students access to groceries on an as-needed basis.
The Food Bank is an important resource for children in need within our community, and we also conduct outreach to educate families with children about other resources available to them. We work with the county to help enroll families in the CalFresh program. Through this program families receive benefits to purchase groceries helping to stretch their limited budgets. CalFresh is the most effective nutrition assistance program at pulling families out of poverty.
In three short months, schools will be out for the summer. When my children were growing up, summer just meant adjustments to our family routine because school was no longer in session. We never thought about our children not having enough food because school is out.
Unfortunately, the reality for many children is that summer breaks mean less food is available to them. That’s why the Food Bank advocates for the Summer Food Service Program at the government level.
Also, we perform outreach locally to educate families about this federal nutrition assistance program that helps children 18 and younger. We believe that no family in our community should ever have to send a child to bed hungry.
If you are interested in donating to the Food Bank to help us end child hunger, please visit www.foodbankccs.org/childhunger.
The author is executive director of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, based in Concord. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.