It’s hard to believe but school bells have already begun ringing, signaling the start of a new school year in many communities across the country. When you think back to school, classroom supplies like books, pencils and rulers often come to mind. But for the 21 million children who rely on free and reduced-cost school meals, it also means the beginning of a year where they’ll receive the nutrition they need.
This school year, half of all children attending public schools will come from low-income families and will be eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.[i] When kids get the food they need, they feel better, perform better in school and have fewer behavior problems.[ii] School breakfast and lunch are great at helping feed hungry kids, but there are still gaps.
That’s why Kellogg Company is proud to partner with Feeding America’s School Pantry program. This innovative program helps to set up food pantries that are conveniently located on-site at schools for families of students in need. The school pantries complement school breakfast and lunch programs, providing access to food for children and their families after the school day has ended. They help to fill an important gap, relieving the burden and anxiety a family may face when they aren’t sure where their next meal may come from. And they help children to focus on their education, not hungry stomachs.
The School Pantry program wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of school administrators, teachers, food banks, the donor community and volunteers working together in response to the problem of childhood hunger. This is now Feeding America’s most rapidly expanding program, on average increasing the number of meals distributed by over 40 percent annually since Feeding America started tracking the program in 2010. For the 2014 school year the program had 1,141 sites providing 25 million meals to more than 150,000 children.
School Pantry and School Breakfast expansions are part of Kellogg Company’s Breakfasts for Better Days global signature cause. This multi-year effort is aimed at expanding school breakfast programs, maximizing our product donations and advocating for breakfast. We’ve been working with partners across the nation to expand access to school breakfast, and through those efforts, more than 340,000 new children were enrolled last year.[iii] We’ve also donated more than 900 million servings of food – half of which are breakfast – to children in need and their families through food banks and other agencies since 2013.
This has included our partnership in the School Pantry program, which we’ve supported through start-up and expansion grants, all aimed at helping low-income children learn and become more successful in school.
You can help too. Use the food bank locator on the Feeding America webpage and offer to volunteer at a school pantry. Together, we can help even more children be successful this school year!
*Jodi Gibson is Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility with Kellogg Company and a long-time hunger-relief advocate. In her current role, she leads the development and implementation of the company’s global hunger-relief initiative, “Breakfasts for Better Days.” Her career includes a unique blend of leadership positions in both the corporate and nonprofit sector, including 10 years of service with Feeding America.