For many kids, school breakfast and lunch may be the only meal they eat some days. In Itasca County, over 18 percent of children live in a food-insecure household, according to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap report. In addition, most schools report free-or-reduced-price-meal eligibility over 50 percent. Some schools report as high as 80 percent. Child hunger is a real issue in our community!

The problem of hunger isn’t just the occasional discomfort that comes from a stomach that has been empty for too long. Scientific research has shown again and again that individuals who are food insecure on an ongoing basis are disproportionately affected by chronic diseases including diabetes and high blood pressure. In addition, research has shown that food insecurity can be devastating for children. When a child doesn’t receive enough nutritious food on a regular basis, there will be serious implications for his or her physical and mental health, academic success, and future well-being. The many damaging consequences can include delayed development; risk of chronic illness like asthma and anemia; behavioral problems like hyperactivity, anxiety, and aggression; lower test scores and achievement in school; and other long-term challenges for the children, their families, and their communities.

Second Harvest Food Bank strives to address these challenges by providing food to children who are at risk of hunger outside the school day. Specifically, the Kids Pack Backpack Program and School Pantry Program are designed to meet kids and their families where they are – at school.

Every elementary school and middle school in Itasca County (11 schools) provide the Kids Packs each month to children who may be at risk of hunger over the weekend. These are packs of non-perishable foods that kids can eat with little or no preparation. In addition, many of the schools have opened school pantries that provide groceries for struggling families to prepare meals at home. School pantries can be anything from a few shelves of staple foods to a full range of fresh, frozen and refrigerated items. They are designed to make nutritious food available and accessible for students and families in a safe, familiar environment.

Thousands of hungry local kids are helped by Second Harvest every month. We don’t do this work alone. We need your help. Volunteer to help pack Kids Packs or donate to help provide food for the Kids Packs and the pantries. Together, we can end childhood hunger.

Sue Estee

Executive Director,

Second Harvest North

Central Food Bank

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