Opinion

You can help end child hunger in our community | Neighbors Helping Neighbors

By Mary Nader

One of the nice improvements of our new front market is that families can now shop together. It is heartwarming to watch families receive the food they need, shopping and deciding as a family.

During summer, the children often came along — we have Popsicles in the freezer for just this reason.  You can’t tell by watching them as they happily fill their baskets, but state and national statistics report  that 1 out of 4 of these children will not eat regularly or nutritiously, the definition of food insecurity.

Often, children don’t tell us when they’re hungry.   But school staff witness the sad reality of hungry children every day, and they are trained to see the signs. They know a child is hungry because he or she rushes to lunch, often lingering with hope for more, they hoard their food or seem listless and unenergetic. Sometimes diabetic children go without mid-day snacks, a dangerous prescription for lethargy or worse. All of this may come about because of family economics, parents busy working and not organizing meals for their children, or just simply as a result of neglect. But whatever the reason, we as a community should do everything we can to feed our children.  The risk of not doing so is obvious and unthinkable.

In 2009, North Kitsap Fishline started a program called Food for Thought.  When children were referred by school counselors, they could receive a pack of easy-to-prepare, child-friendly food items on Friday afternoons, enough to last the weekend. They were delivered discretely by school staff so the children could receive their food without embarrassment. The program was an instant success — within two years, enrollment was at 188 children, spanning ages of 5-18. As impressive as this number is, it is only a fraction of the 2,200 children who are on free/reduced-lunch programs in this school district, an indication of extremely low income and possibly, food insecurity.

This a mandate for our community. We must reach out to every child who suffers from hunger and make sure they have enough food to be healthy and to learn.

As we enter into a new school year, Fishline will focus on childhood nutrition, improving the weekend pack components to be of the healthiest ingredients and  work with schools to make sure every child who needs our help will receive it. We would love to see food drives just for the items we need for Food for Thought. We’d  also like to expand our program to include school day snacks, a possibility with your help.

At Kids Day on Sept. 15, Fishline will introduce a new program that invites individuals and families to sponsor a child, anonymously connecting donors in a way that is personal and impactful. Given enough cooperation, one donor-child connection at a time, children’s hunger in our community can be eliminated.

And the satisfaction of knowing you are helping a child grow into their full potential will be the greatest reward of all.

— Mary Nader is executive director of North Kitsap Fishline. Contact her at director@nkfishline.org. Fishline Food Bank & Emergency Services is located at 18916 NE 3rd Ave., Poulsbo. Call (360) 779-5190.

 

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