Feeding Our Children
Washington, DC, October 27, 2017
Children need nutritious food to grow and thrive, and they need it every day. One in four Arkansas children faces food insecurity - meaning they are not sure when or where their next meal will come from. In some of our most rural counties, that rate is as high as one in every three children, and over 176,000 children in our state live in food insecure households.
Since coming to Congress, one of my top priorities has been working with groups and individuals in Arkansas who are committed to empowering all members of our community, particularly those living in poverty who need our help. On the CEI blog this month, I want to recognize community organizations like the Arkansas Foodbank that are exploring ways to create seamless access to nutritious food for children who face hunger. Every day, their 450 partner agencies and schools help struggling families by feeding their children.
The Arkansas Foodbank is working to answer important questions like: If a child is food insecure, how often do they have nutritious snacks or meals when they are not in school? How can we make sure children have access to nutritious food at night, on the weekends, on the holidays, and during the summer?
Helping to alleviate this food hunger crisis, the Foodbank’s “Food For Kids” program is focused on effective, cost-efficient and replicable hunger relief programs to target children in need. The impact of childhood hunger is immediate as well as long-term. But with community-wide support and programs that seek to reach children —whether at home during the weekend, after school, or through the summer—together, we can ensure children have access to healthy and nutritious food all year round.
When children receive the food they need to grow and thrive as individuals, they perform better in school, have improved emotional and physical development, and ultimately focus on themselves and their community.
One organization that the Foodbank supports is the “In His Image Youth Development Center (IHIYDC),” which serves approximately 35 children in Arkansas every day. When there are full days at the center, the kids ranging from six to 11 years of age eat breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack. “The kids enjoy eating healthy foods. We do health and nutrition programs and cooking classes, too.” Charity Tyler, IHIYDC’s Prevention Program Coordinator, says. “We teach them that they should eat at least three fruits and two vegetables a day.”
Many of the children that IHIYDC serves have parents who are working or who are actively looking for full-time employment. IHIYDC’s charitable actions are making a positive impact in the lives of the children they serve as they partner with the Foodbank in their efforts. “One child comes here every afternoon sleepy, but wakes up for snack time,” Tyler says. Programs like these are important links to educating hungry children and ensuring they get healthy foods, which enhances their learning and their capability to stay focused.
Every child in Arkansas ought to go to bed with a full stomach. Our children should be spending their time and energy going to school, doing their homework, playing with their friends, and spending time with their families. Charitable efforts across our state like the Arkansas Foodbank and their partnering organizations are helping alleviate food insecurity for our Arkansas children in need. It is inspiring to see so many people in our communities helping support this worthy cause. Together as a community, we are united in fighting hunger and helping our Arkansas children get the food and care they need.