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Keeping kids fed through summer

KINGSTON — Some children eating breakfast at school Monday morning were enjoying their first real meal since lunch on Friday.

That’s how Gene Medina remembers it, when he was superintendent of North Kitsap schools. And the problem of children not getting proper nutrition is a particular worry for him when summer comes: How do children who depend on free and reduced lunches during the school year get the food they need during the summer?

A program known now as Food for Kids is raising money to help pay for summer school lunches at Wolfle Elementary School and provide food packets for students when summer school ends — a seven-week period between summer school’s end and the beginning of the school year.

Some 60 percent of students at Wolfle now qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, according to Medina.

That’s up from 53.4 percent in May 2011, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction report card. During the 2005-06 school year, 48.2 percent qualified for free or reduced-price meals, according to the report card.

Districtwide, 33.5 percent of students, or 2,237, in the qualified for free or reduced-price meals in 2011.

“We’re raising $5,950 that will basically help us deliver two packets a week for seven weeks, and cover the gap in funding for summer school lunches,” he said. Medina said 110 children are expected for summer school.

Last year, Food for Kids provided food packets for seven weeks for 50-60 children. “This year, we’re projecting 75,” Medina said.

There are a lot of partners in Food for Kids. Summer school is funded by a grant and is staffed by Port Gamble S’Klallam’s Early Childhood Education Department. The grant doesn’t cover the entire cost of lunches, so Food for Kids fills the funding gap and ShareNet provides weekend lunch packets during summer school.

Food for Kids isn’t the only program providing meals. North Kitsap Fishline runs Food for Thought, which began October 2010. It served about 60 students across the district in its first year.

When summer school is out, the Kingston Food Bank provides food packets to the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, which distributes them to children on the reservation. The Kingston Rescue Mission helps deliver food to children that don’t live on the reservation.

And, of course, donors in the community are major partners. As of Wednesday, the program had raised $1,050; it must raise $4,900 more. Donations can be sent to Kingston-North Kitsap Rotary Foundation, P.O. Box 832, Kingston, WA. 98346. Indicate on your check that it’s for Food for Kids.

“If we receive more funds, the money remains in an account for next year as seed money so we never fall behind,” Medina said. “We need to continue to support these children through the summer. You know the research about education and nutrition.”

A child needs a diet of good fats, protein, carbohydrates and micronutrients for proper development. Those nutrients are found in fish, fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, dark leafy greens, and whole grains.  Hydration – drinking plenty of water — is also essential.

“Within your student’s brain, a biochemical process of learning is occurring, that parallels the classroom experience,” Dr. Philippa Norman wrote in “Healthy Brain for Life.”

“Making connections, finding meaning and solving problems are learning tasks that require lightning-fast electrical impulses between areas of the brain.  Formation of memory requires physical growth and reshaping of networks of brain cells.  So that wonderful experience — when the lights go on and your student says, ‘I get it!’ — is a neurochemical process as well as an academic one.

By nourishing the brain with healthy food and water, you will optimize the internal environment, enabling students to truly engage in the classroom environment and achieve their potential.”

 

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