October 5, 2016

The Child Hunger Corps is a national service program designed to increase the capacity and capability of food banks to execute programs targeted towards the alleviation of child hunger. The objective of the program is to increase the number of nutritious snacks and meals served to children in need in local communities around the country. The Child Hunger Corps initiative is sponsored by the ConAgra Foods Foundation.

In August 2016, the sixth cohort of ten new Corps members were placed at Feeding America member food banks, bringing the current total to 40 Child Hunger Corps members working at food banks across the country. This post is by sixth cohort member Cheyanna Johnson, Child Hunger Corps member at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida in Orlando, FL. 

My first month at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida (SHFB) has been quite the affair. On my first day, it seemed like the entirety of SHFB was expecting my arrival and everyone has been kind and accommodating. Not only have they been particularly welcoming, everyone has been keen to find out what my role is and what they can expect from my six months of research. In explaining my position, both at SHFB and at local food pantry and meal program meetings, it has spurred many ideas, questions, thoughts, possibilities, connections and immeasurably helpful conversations – one of those conversations being the location of the bathroom and another regarding teen hunger.

The teen food insecurity study was released on September 12th. Taking time out this week to read that study inspired a "mission moment," as they call it here at SHFB. Mission Moments are events, conversations or moments that remind us why the work that we are doing matters and that study inspired a moment for me. The insights that the researchers had gathered was thought-provoking, engaging and saddening. For me, it was particularly relatable. I grew up in a rural part of Ohio from a low-income family. The 2008 recession hit during my freshman year of high school and made my already struggling family needier. My family was a part of the "missing class," or families that don't qualify for government assistance, but struggle to make ends meet. My parents worked an hour and a half away from home and often spent their entire checks to pay for the utilities, gas and mortgage, leaving little money for food. Consequentially, I am intimately familiar with all flavors of Hamburger Helper​.

Similar to those in the study​, I faced many of the struggles that rural, food-insecure teen's face. Reading through the study was almost like going through a checklist of experiences. Sheltered the younger siblings? Check. Asked friends/teachers for food? Yes. Never had friends over on the weekend? Oh, yeah.

While it reminded me of my personal experience with food insecurity, the study also reminded me of two of my reasons for joining the Child Hunger Corps​: to find ways to prevent the same experiences that happened to me from happening to others and to support people currently facing comparable situations. The information in the study reinforced my motivation and has encouraged me to delve more deeply into the impact of food insecurity on teens. During the next six months, I hope to identify resources for teens facing hunger, as well as work with teens to improve anti-hunger programs and develop opportunities that would benefit their neighborhoods, homes, friends and families directly.


Tags: Hunger Heroes , Hunger in America , Florida , Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida , Conagra Brands and the Conagra Brands Foundation

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