As the school year kicks off, you can make sure kids have the meals they need to succeed.
In America, 1 in 6 children struggles with hunger, and there may be millions of kids across the country who are not getting the nourishment their bodies need. We chatted with Christina Martinez, program manager of children and families at Feeding America, to better understand how hunger impacts kids and how the Feeding America network is helping children facing hunger.
Q: How does hunger affect a child’s ability to learn?
A: Sadly, hunger may impact a child’s ability to perform well in school. Research demonstrates that children from families who are not sure where their next meal may come from are more likely to have lower math scores and repeat a grade, among other challenges.
Q: What are the effects of hunger on child development?
A: Kids at risk of hunger may be less equipped to reach their full potential as they engage with the world around them. Studies show that children from homes that lack consistent access to food are more likely to experience developmental impairments in areas like language, motor skills and behavior.
Q: What does a child need to succeed in school?
A: Children need nutrients so they can grow, develop and focus on learning instead of thinking about the food they need. Ultimately, they need to be able to concentrate in the classroom so they can succeed in school and be prepared to enter the workforce as adults.
Q: How can I help kids facing hunger this school year?
A: Volunteer at your local food bank! Many food banks have impactful programs that are channeling healthy meals to kids in need—and some of them may be looking for volunteers to help. From packing backpacks with food so kids have meals all weekend to providing lunches at Kids Cafe programs, food banks provide meals to children through a variety of innovative initiatives.
With a grant from the Tyson Foods Protein Innovation Fund, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma recently created a room for repacking meat donations so they can be distributed to children and families in need. Now, as part of their BackPack Program, they can include protein-rich beef and pork along with other nutritious foods in backpacks and distribute them at schools for kids at risk of hunger to take home. Thanks to their meat repacking room, the food bank is sourcing so much protein that that they are distributing it other food banks— which is a huge win, as meat is not frequently donated.
Additionally, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank partners with a local mobile literacy bus to offer fresh produce and small-group learning opportunities to kids in need through local produce markets. Recently, Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech donated books to the program so that they can be distributed along with nutritious food to children at risk of hunger.
The Feeding America network is committed to helping every child go to school with a full stomach, ready to learn. Network members across the nation feed more than 12 million kids annually through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, as well as through child hunger programs offered at schools, libraries and other places where children gather. Give to Feeding America today to support our efforts to get kids the nutrients they need to succeed.