Updated: Jul 10, 2018
As a former teacher, I saw first-hand the impact of childhood hunger in our schools. I remember vividly seeing my students come in with a couple of bags of chips, an energy drink, and call it breakfast. When my students were hungry, their behavior, health, and ability to learn suffered. If you look at state testing scores, you will see that the schools that perform poorly are in low-income areas. Fortunately, these children have the option of free or reduced lunch during the school year. These meals are a lifeline for students and their families because they provide nutrition and financial relief. Then summer comes and these meals aren’t available. Only 15% of the kids who qualify for free meals at school have access to meals during the summer, according to No Kid Hungry.
The ripple effect of childhood hunger on our community is undeniable. Consider these statistics:
Hungry children are sick more often and more likely to have to be hospitalized. The average pediatric hospitalization costs approximately $12,000. Long-term, this contributes to high healthcare costs. (Feeding America/Children’s HealthWatch report: “Child Food Insecurity: The Economic Impact on our Nation”)
Workers who experienced hunger as kids are not as well prepared physically, mentally, emotionally, or socially to perform effectively in the contemporary workforce (Feeding America/Children’s HealthWatch Report)
Child hunger costs the U.S. economy at least $28 billion per year because poorly nourished children do not perform as well in school and require far more long-term health care spending (Brown, Shepard, Martin, Orwat, 2007)
Our Kids on the Go Summer Feeding Program seeks to bridge the gap for children by providing a reliable source of food three days each week when school is out. At ten sites across Caroline, Spotsylvania, and Stafford Counties, children up to 18 years old can enjoy a freshly prepared, healthy meal, learn about nutrition, and enjoy fun activities. Recently, I stopped by the feeding site at the Salem Church Library. Almost 150 children were enjoying pasta salad with cheese and turkey, fresh grapes, milk, juice, and goldfish crackers. Storytime was getting ready to start and children were checking out books. The Greater Falls Run Lions Club was providing free vision screenings. There were smiling faces everywhere.
I spoke with Megan and her son Blaik who have come to Kids on the Go for the last few summers. “I am disabled and a single parent. I get SNAP benefits but those have been cut. I try to tell everyone about this program. I tell them to come feed their kids and take advantage of these meals! My son loves to come have lunch and then check out a book or just hang out in the kids’ section. It is a really great program that helps us as a family so much.”
One in five children in our community does not know where their next meal is coming from. Kids on the Go would not exist without the support of our community and we are so grateful. Unfortunately, need continues to grow. We estimate serving 7,000 lunches this summer. The program needs site volunteers and is even offering an internship program for students 18 years and older. If you are interested in supporting this program with your time, talent, or financial gifts, please contact LaToya Brown, Children’s Programs Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the FRFB at 371-7666.