When Barb Shick handed a backpack loaded with a weekend food supply to a student at Findlay’s Washington Intermediate School, she wasn’t prepared for the response. The student politely thanked
her and added, “This is great. We don’t have food at home and now I have something to eat on Saturday and Sunday.” “I have to admit, my eyes started misting up,” says Shick, community relations coordinator for Findlay City Schools. “It’s hard to believe that there are kids right here in Findlay with nothing to eat once they reach home.” Shick and representatives from the Findlay YMCA, United Way of Hancock County, The Findlay/Hancock County Community Foundation and Marathon Oil Company began planning Findlay’s “Feed a Child” program early in 2009. With Washington’s high rate of enrollment in the national free and reduced lunch program (79.04%), it was a logical conclusion that many students were relying on school to provide one or two meals a day. The school system operates a lunch program over the summer, but weekend nutrition seemed to “fall through the cracks.”
A national model
Findlay’s “Feed a Child” program is based on Feeding America’s Backpack Program with more than 3,600 sites throughout the country. The programs served more than 190,000 children
in 2009. The fi rst offi cial program in Arkansas was designed to meet the needs of hungry children at times when other resources were not available. There, the local food bank gave school children groceries in non-descript backpacks to carry home each Friday.
Locally, “Feed a Child” is being piloted at Washington Intermediate and will be instituted at Jacobs Elementary and selected schools each year if funding can be established. Jacobs has recorded a free and reduced lunch eligibility of 68% and the school system overall has seen a signifi cant increase in eligibility for food programs. Success of the initial program has been attributed to the cooperation and collaboration among area agencies and private businesses.
The nutrition/ brain connection
The effects of going without proper nutrition are more than just lethargy and irritability. According to “Child Food Insecurity: The Economic Impact on our Nation” (published on Feeding America’s website): “A large body of research literature, amassed over the past two decades, shows clearly that food insecurity and hunger together with other correlates of poverty, can dramatically alter the architecture of children’s brains, making it impossible for them to fulfi ll their potential.” “After adjusting for confounding variables, 6-to-11- year-old food-insuffi cient children had significantly lower arithmetic scores and
were more likely to have repeated a grade, have seen a psychologist, and have had difficulty getting along with other children. (Children were classifi ed as food-insufficient if the family reported that they sometimes or often did not get enough food to eat.)”
The Findlay YMCA serves as the collection and distribution center for Feed a Child. Food items are purchased through the West Ohio Food Bank and are assembled into individual packs by Food Bank volunteers. Though the items may vary, each pack contains food items for two breakfasts, lunches, dinners and most of the food is non-perishable. The weekend food supply is distributed through Washington school personnel on Fridays before the students leave for the weekend.
According to YMCA executive director Russ Gartner, the Y’s 2010-2012 Strategic Plan specifi cally calls upon the organization to improve the health and well-being of its community. “The Plan calls us to connect with our community and to be a partner with corporations, businesses, foundations, educational institutions and other social service agencies to share resources,” he adds. “The Feed a Child program fits our plan for action and we believe it addresses the most basic of human needs; feeding hungry children.”
Beginning with the start of the 2010-2011 school year, Findlay’s Feed a Child program has already received a huge positive response and plans are underway to expand and enhance the program. Based on the high rate of free and reduced lunch at Washington, an “opt-out” enrollment was instituted. This meant that every student would receive a weekend backpack unless parents
indicated to the school that none was needed. According to Shick, as the program expands, enrollment criteria will primarily be based on the student’s eligibility for free and reduced lunch with the ultimate eligibility decision being made by school administrators.
Findlay’s Feed a Child Program is always in need of more donations of non-perishable, “kid friendly” food. If you’d like to help, contact Barb Shick
at Findlay City Schools, 419-427-5488 or Patti Davidson at the Findlay YMCA, 419-422-4424.
Be a Model of Good Nutrition!
According to a nutrition tip sheet on USDA’s website, MyPyramid.gov, you can do many things to webhelp your children develop healthy eating habits site, help for life. The following 10 tips will help you behelp come a healthy role model for your kids:
1. Show by example. Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
2. Go food shopping together. Let your children make healthy choices.
3. Get creative in the kitchen. Encourage your child to invent new snacks.
4. Offer the same foods for everyone. Stop being a “short order” cook.
5. Reward with attention, not food.
6. Focus on each other at the table. Try to make meals a stress-free time.
7. Listen to your child. Offer choices.
8. Limit “screen” time. Allow no more than two hours of TV a day.
9. Encourage physical activity. Walk, run and play with your child.
10. Be a good food role model. Try new, healthy foods yourself.