CHILD HUNGER

While hunger, food insecurity and poverty affect people of all ages, a major focus of the Second Harvest Food Bank is on childhood hunger. Consider these statistics:

  • 44% of children in East Central Indiana are food insecure
  • 54% of the children in our service area participate in the school lunch program
  • 49% of the children in our service area participate in the school breakfast program

Children in East Central Indiana

Food insecure 44%
Participate in school lunch program 54%
Participate in school breakfast program 49%

PROGRAMS

Right now, these children may go to bed hungry tonight which is a problem that, together, we can prevent. Second Harvest provides a variety of programs to assist with child hunger including:

School Pantries
Food 4 Kids BackPack Program
Circles Youth Enrichment

HOW THE PROGRAMS WORK

Our goals with the School Pantry program is to help raise parent engagement by strengthening the relationships between the school and the families. We do this by providing families in need a safe and convenient school environment to receive one of their basic needs: food. The School Pantry programs are designed to distribute enough food to fill a family’s food insecurity gap for a week.

We have received positive responses from our school pantry programs about parent engagement and strengthened relationships since the program’s inception. School parents and staff have explained that the food brings families and schools together. One parent reported that the school pantry distribution encouraged her participation in monthly family nights at her child’s elementary school.

One teacher (Tracy Young) from Wilbur Wright Elementary stated,

“We’ve had more school staff say they feel grateful to be helping with this program and look forward to each month to connect with our school families.”

  • $6.00 helps feed a family for a week
  • $24.00 helps feed a family for a month

Food 4 Kids is geared towards meeting the needs of hungry children by providing nutritious and easy to prepare food to take home on weekends and school vacations when other resources are not available.

What’s in the bag?
  • Typically the bag is 2-3lbs of easy to open, nonperishable, low-prep foods.
  • 8 food items per bag
  • $4.00 per bag

The program requires that distributions be made a minimum of once a month during the school year, but it is encouraged to provide the program over each weekend. Most programs provide additional distributions for vacations and holidays. Distribution to the whole school is encouraged depending on the school’s needs.

The cycle of poverty may not be broken with this generation. There is greater likelihood that the principles learned and long-range efforts undertaken that children of Delaware County Circles members will not be struggling financially.

Delaware County Circles operates Youth Enrichment for Circle Leaders’ children at each Thursday night meal session. While staff helps to plan what the children will study and how they will focus, it is a unique partnership with Ball State University that gives life to the program. Dr. Melinda Messineo, chairman of the Sociology department at BSU, envisioned a community laboratory in which her students could experience the challenges of different cultural groups. In a for-credit internship, students from sociology, social work, and sometimes other disciplines work with Circles’ children for at least one semester.

The internship has been a rich experience for the children. Not only do they get to hear about what going to college is like, but they are working and interacting with students who have been trained in understanding issues of generational poverty.

In the spring of 2017, the youth learned about Leadership in all aspects of their life. The leadership training, Skills for Life, focused on the families, teachings, upbringing and belief system and better helped the youth move from concrete to abstract thinking.

Among the enrichment modules that the students teach Conflict Resolution & Engagement, Mindfulness, Character Building and Financial Empowerment. Children 5-18 years of age fill out an application for Thursday night jobs, go through an interview, and then take on a seven-week employment opportunity which might range from setting up chairs to helping pass out give-away food at the end of the evening. For these jobs, they receive $25 to be deposited in their savings accounts, established with them when they get their first jobs during weekly Circles meetings. Other financial literacy focus includes summer entrepreneurial projects that the youth do in teams. In addition, they win “Circles Cash,” a kind of play money for good behavior, good manners, kindness to others, etc. Those “dollars” enable them to purchase items in the Circles’ store which offers an assortment of toys and items that they can buy for themselves or purchase for siblings or parents.

The financial literacy program for children was developed in part by the Center for Economics at BSU. Other financial literacy information used by Circles and taught to other agencies in the community was co-developed with Dr. Mark Myring in the department of accounting.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Child hunger programs are a team effort. To run effectively, it’s imperative to have community support in the way of funding and with volunteers to help organize distribution to the children. If you are interested in helping with a child hunger program, contact Sarah Rivera at srivera@curehunger.org to learn more about the opportunities in your community!

CHILDREN THAT ARE FOOD INSECURE EXPERIENCE A VARIETY OF ADVERSE EFFECTS INCLUDING:

Physical Health:

Hungry children suffer from two to four times as many individual health problems as low-income children whose families do not experience food shortages. Problems can include weight loss, fatigue, headaches, irritability, frequent colds, iron-deficiency, and anemia.

Child Development:

Food insecurity puts children in jeopardy of developmental risk. Developmental risk is characterized with a slow or unusual development of children in areas such as speaking, behavior, and movement, which increases the likelihood of later problems with attention, learning, and social interaction.

School Readiness and Achievement:

Children from food insecure households are more likely to struggle in their academic development and be ill and absent from school. Food insecurity has a negative impact on children’s ability to learn in school and can lead to poor concentration.

Behavior and Mental Health:

Anxiety, negative feelings about self-worth, and hostility towards the outside world can result from food insecurity. Food insecurity has also been shown to be associated with suicide and depressive disorders among 15 to 16 year old children.