Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: The United States sadly has the second highest percentage of childhood poverty amongst the top 35 industrialized countries. Nearly 15 million children in our country live in poverty, which breaks down to about one in five children not having their basic needs met.
We all realize that children are the future of our society. We talk a great deal about putting money into programs that help children because we know that investing in future generations is good for all of us. The question for us today is how much is talk and how much is action?
Most of you reading this probably realize that the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano works to provide nutritious food to low-income people in our community. However, what you may not know is that 25 percent of the people we serve are children.
Children can benefit from their families participating in a variety of our programs, but we have three programs that are specifically designed to reach children. Our Food for Children program provides food to low-income children ages 4-6 who transition from receiving WIC benefits to receiving school lunch benefits. Our Farm to Kids program provides fresh produce to children in after-school programs at low-income schools. Our School Pantry Program makes shelf-stable food available to students at schools where 50 percent or more of the students are low-income.
In addition to providing food to alleviate hunger, we conduct advocacy on children’s behalf to promote long-term solutions to end hunger. We communicate with our elected officials and encourage them to pass legislation such as the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill. We believe that children nutrition programs, such as free and reduced school lunches, should be part of our society’s investment in healthy children.
Beyond providing food and advocacy to local children in need, we also provide outreach to families. We attend family resource fairs and functions at community events so we can inform parents what services are available to them.
One creative way we reach out directly to children is by way of a theatrical production. During the fall the Food Bank brings an assembly to schools throughout Contra Costa and Solano counties. Hungry is a 40-minute play that tells the story of Eric, a typical middle school student, whose family has suffered a loss of income. Eric’s family no longer has enough money for groceries, especially at the end of the month. Using music, humor and drama, Eric’s journey engages and inspires students as they learn about the common problem of hunger in their communities.
This year’s production of Hungry is wrapping up this week. We are proud that over 7,000 students have witnessed this production this year alone. Through the performance, the students have learned how they can either help others in need or receive assistance if the need it. Hungry also drives home the point that children should not be embarrassed by not having enough food.
It is not acceptable to us that anyone in our country should be hungry, but that especially applies to children. We are too great a country to accept that. To help families this holiday season, you can make a tax-deductible donation online at www.foodbankccs.org/holidays.