Teaching our children to make healthy food choices is challenging in a fast paced world full of affordable and quick options promoting fast food drive-thrus. With the inability to guide your child’s decisions once they start venturing out on their own with independence and time spent away from you at school, it’s important we are teaching good habits and the ability to make smart decisions. Sadly not all children have the opportunity to make a choice when it comes to food. Sometimes parents only have the option of inexpensive and unhealthy food for their entire family or no food at all. When we think of hungry children, the most common visual that comes to mind is commercials asking for donations to help starving children in third-world countries. Sadly many do not recognize there is a wide difference between starvation and food insecurity. Food insecurity is not knowing the source or time of your next meal, something many children face every single day. I was delighted by the invitation from the Valley of the Sun United Way in Arizona to work as a #UnitedWeGive community advocate talking about their initiatives to end hunger in the classroom because I am well aware of the disparities with food insecurity for children.
My second grade best friend was sweet and kind and funny. We loved to swing during recess and hopscotch was a favorite activity when our teacher let us bring chalk to the playground. I remember her hair color, her favorite playground activities, and the shoes she wore everyday. I remember our many school adventures and sitting together on the bus to field trips. I remember the dress her grandmother gave me for my birthday. I do not remember ever meeting her family. She played at my house often but I was never invited to her home. She was very polite and comfortable spending time with my family. I distinctly remember the first time she asked to bring food home to her family at the end of a playdate. I also remember during my eighth birthday party she asked to bring the leftover pizza to her siblings because they would not have dinner otherwise. While food insecurity was never an issue in my home, second grade was the first time I realized food and the lack of is a very real concern for some children including my very best friend.
Everyday I make sure my daughters have access to healthy meal choices. Every morning they start their days with breakfast.
What if you don’t have the ability to provide your children a healthy start to each day? What if your children are not given the same health and nutrition opportunities their classmates get at home every morning?
Does it make a difference knowing there are children in school every single day focusing only on when they will see their next meal?
Getting Arizona children to school is not enough to guarantee the opportunity for an education. Not knowing where the next meal is coming from, food insecurity, is overpowering efforts to provide a fair education to the children in our community.
The United Way is making a difference and I’m joining the fight to help provide fair opportunities to all the children in our community. It might not be you or your children in need of food, but as a community we all should be making sure every child doesn’t have to worry about when and where they will see their next meal.
You may already be familiar with low income meal solutions at school. Some children, depending on varying qualifiers, are provided reduced rate and free meals sometimes including breakfast and/or lunch. Before considering that as enough, think about how it feels to be the child walking into the school cafeteria for a free breakfast. With so many factors involved that hungry child might not ever make it to the cafeteria at all. Interrupting playtime, identifying yourself as the child without food at home, or even making it there on time are just a few of the reasons why children with access to free meals are still hungry in the classroom.
The Valley of the Sun United Way is partnering with Edward Jones to provide breakfast in the classroom to all elementary grade students at identified Maricopa county schools. To date, they have sponsored a significant number of schools already but have quite a long way to go to reach their goal. Through the Breakfast in the Classroom initiative, a nutritious breakfast is provided in the classroom to all children, regardless of whether or not they had access to breakfast each morning. Every child is given the same opportunity to start their learning day ready for educational opportunities and not having to worry about their hungry tummies.
What can you do to help?
Donate, learn, and share. Every dollar helps but your support and help building awareness is equally valuable. As a community, we have the ability to work together to end child hunger with breakfast in the classroom. Maybe it’s not your child in need of breakfast but maybe your child’s best friend is facing food insecurity and you don’t even know it. We already know one of every four children in Arizona face hunger everyday. Lets all work together to change the statistics and help create a safe learning environment for our next community leaders.
Learn more about my partnership with Valley of the Sun United Way and connect with them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Follow along the #UnitedWeGive conversation and join the conversation with all nine of the Hungry for Change community advocates.
How do you plan to make a difference?