The Marshall Ruritan’s Kid’s Weekend Lunch Box program for the Marshall area started as an offshoot of the Back Pack Buddy program that is active across the United States. The Back Pack Buddy program was originally started under the umbrella of the Feeding America charity. There are many branches that work with Society of St Andrews or other hunger related charities or food banks. There are hundreds of branches of Back Pack Buddies across the United States and DC. Child Hunger or another term used is ‘child food insecurity’ is a problem in every state. Food Insecurity is a term that refers not so much to going without any food but having an inconsistent and unhealthy diet.
Children that are consistently hungry for healthy nutrition do not always do as well in school. They are also at increased risk of illness, impaired cognitive development and anemia. They may lack in social development, exhibit behavioral problems and even experience slower physical growth.
This is a need for every county in Virginia, across our nation and right here in Marshall. Feeding America statistics for 2011 show that nearly 12% of Virginia’s population are considered “food insecure”. Those same statistics list Fauquier County at 8% (and Loudon at 6%. )
We can help. In Fauquier County, on average, 25% of the children attending public schools are on the assisted lunch program and receive either free or reduce lunches. One in every 4 students or about 120 children is on the Federally Funded School Lunch program and receives a healthy lunch 5 days of the week. The Kids Weekend Lunch Box program serves to help on the days when students are not in school and a good lunch may not always be available to them.
The original Back Pack Buddy program actually sent a backpack home with students identified by the school administration as needing help with meals at home. Normally, there is enough sent home to cover 2 meals over the weekend. The children then return the backpack on the following Tuesday where it is picked up, refilled and delivered to the school again on Friday for distribution.
We have modified the idea to make it more manageable to start the program at Marshall. We use zip loc bags and pack enough items for 1 lunch over the weekend. We deliver the bags to the school on Friday mornings and the principal or other administrator distributes where they are needed. We never know the names of any children that are receiving the lunches but we know they are going where there is a need. This is a very important part of the program. Although it would be great to meet the children and hand the lunches out with a hug and show our love and concern to each child, it works better if we all maintain this confidentiality.
Volunteers take turns gathering supplies, packing the bags and delivering the lunches to the school. This opens the program to many and gives opportunities for all to be involved in some way. Members of the community, church group and other civic groups donate lunch items and funds to keep Lunch Box tubs full and ready for more lunches. We are currently packing and delivering over 70 lunches each week to both of the elementary Marshall area schools. It takes about an hour for one person to pack 30 bags. With a group many more can be packed in that hour. Currently, If you or your group are interested in helping pack the lunches, please contact the Marshall Ruritan at (540)364-9586 and thank you for your support.
Each bag contains 1 fruit juice, 1 fruit cup, 1 protein or cereal, and 2-4 snack crackers and granola bars. The weight of the bag should be less than 3 pounds and containers should be as leak proof as possible. We avoid chips, cookies and things that will melt or crumble and we especially avoid the sweet drinks. The fruit based drinks or fruit flavored water are a healthier alternative.
Our goal is to provide every student on the lunch program with one healthy lunch for the weekend during the school year. This program can be grown to also cover the summer vacation months and various school holidays and breaks. We would like to see other groups adopt schools to help with the program. The first and most important thing to do is to reach out to the school administration and make things as easy as possible for them to help coordinate the lunch delivery. Administrators are very busy and we do not want to this to be a burden to them or it will not be successful.
As we learn more about the things that work and the things that may not work, we may change or alter the specifics but the bottom line is to get a lunch home with a child for the weekend.
Also, there is a definite need in providing nut-free or gluten-free lunches but we don’t have any numbers on how many might be needed. We hope to begin offering these special lunches soon. These would be clearly marked so children with allergies to nuts or gluten could also participate.
As a community, this is something we can all do together.
Child Hunger Facts
The problem of childhood hunger is not simply a moral issue. Child hunger hampers a young person’s ability to learn and becomes more likely to suffer from poverty as an adult. Scientific evidence suggests that hungry children are less likely to become productive citizens.
Facts of Child Hunger in America
- Nearly 14 million children are estimated to be served by Feeding America, over 3 million of which are ages 5 and under.
- According to the USDA, over 16 million children lived in food insecure (low food security and very low food security) households in 2010.
- 20% or more of the child population in 40 states and D.C. lived in food insecure households in 2009. The District of Columbia (32.3%) and Oregon (29.2%) had the highest rates of children in households without consistent access to food.
- In 2009, the top five states with the highest rate of food insecure children under 18 are the District of Columbia, Oregon, Arizona, Arkansas, & Texas. iii
- In 2009, the top five states with the lowest rate of food insecure children under 18 are North Dakota, New Hampshire, Virginia, Maryland, & Massachusetts. iii
- Proper nutrition is vital to the growth and development of children. 62 percent of client households with children under the age of 18 reported participating in the National School Lunch Program, but only 14 percent reported having a child participate in a summer feeding program that provides free food when school is out.i
- 54 percent of client households with children under the age of 3 participated in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).i
- 32 percent of pantries, 42 percent of kitchens, and 18 percent of shelters in the Feeding America network reported “many more children in the summer” being served by their programs.i
- In 2010, 16.4 million or approximately 22 percent of children in the U.S. lived in poverty.
- Research indicates that hungry children have do more poorly in school and have lower academic achievement because they are not well prepared for school and cannot concentrate.
- In fiscal year 2009, 48 percent of all SNAP participants were children
- During the 2010 federal fiscal year, 20.6 million low-income children received free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program. Unfortunately, just 2.3 million of these same income-eligible children participated in the Summer Food Service Program that same year.
i Rhoda Cohen, J. Mabli, F., Potter, Z., Zhao. Mathematica Policy Research. Feeding America. Hunger in America 2010. February 2010.
ii Coleman-Jensen, A., Nord, Mark, M. Andrews, S. Carlson. United States Department of Agriculture/Economic Research Service, Household Food Security in the United States in 2010.
iii Feeding America. Gundersen, C., Waxman, E., Engelhard, E., & Brown, J. Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011.
iv DeNavas-Walt, Carmen, B.D. Proctor, C.H. Lee. U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010. September 2011.
v Cook, John. Feeding America. Child Food Insecurity: The Economic Impact on our Nation. Executive Summer. May 2009.
vi Leftin, Joshua, Gothro, A., Eslami, E.. USDA, Office of Analysis, Nutrition and Evaluation. Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2009, October 2010.
vii USDA, FNS. National School Lunch Program: Participation and Lunches Served. Data preliminary as of September 2011.