September is Hunger Action month, which sounds like the title of a Steven Seagal movie, but it’s not. It’s pretty damn serious. Especially for our kids.
One in four children North Carolina live on the brink of hunger, according to Feeding America (i.e., they have low or very low food security). North Carolina has one of the highest rates in the nation of food insecure children under the age of 18 (meaning they’re hungry or nearing hunger — right now, as you’re reading this). More than 24 percent of our state’s children under five don’t get enough food on a daily basis.
This is shocking and sad. We all know that enough food and the right types of nutritious food are vital to the proper growth and development of our kids. A lot of these kids participate in school breakfast and lunch programs, which help. For many of them, school lunch might be the only sure meal of their day — and often is the most nutritious.
To bring the stats home, 49 percent of students attending Buncombe County Schools (this is a jump from 34 percent in 2001) and 47 percent of students in the Asheville City Schools system participate in the free or reduced lunch programs.
There are a few local initiatives answering the call to “Hunger Action” this month.
One is a project of Children First and their local affiliate Project POWER AmeriCorps. Members of these organizations will be collecting non-perishable food and canned foods on Sat., Sept. 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Earth Fare Supermarket in West Asheville (at the West Gate Shopping Center). All food donations will go to the Emma Food Pantry at the Family Resource Center. While you’re cleaning out your pantry and helping feed kids in Buncombe County, you can chat with these folks about how they’re working to reduce local hunger.
“One in five children in Buncombe County live in poverty,” says Allison Jordan, executive director of Children First. “We are proud that our Project POWER/AmeriCorps members are helping inform people of food insecurities and collecting food to help families living in our community.”
The Emma Food Pantry passes out over 1,000 food boxes a year to approximately 700 families in the community, according to Jennifer Hampton, Children First’s director of development and marketing.
“This project will have a huge impact on filling our food pantry,” Hampton says. “We do purchase food from MANNA, but any free food donations from the community or organizations can make a huge difference in helping the people we serve.”
For more information, contact Tara Jardine at 259-9717.
Another local project that addresses childhood obesity and trying to teach kids to eat well (when they have access to food) comes from Earth Fare Supermarkets, who have teamed up with the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association to address childhood obesity (actually, their mission is to end it, which I find both admirable and somewhat unrealistic).
Classes across Buncombe County are invited to enter one of the three Food Field Trip Contests between now and Sept. 30. Individual students and home-schooled kids also can participate and potentially win for their classrooms and other home-schooled buddies.
- Grades K-3: Healthy Plate Art Contest: Kids are encouraged to show what makes a healthy meal.
- Grades 4-8: Express Yourself, Get Active Project: Students are encouraged to creatively explain how they stay active or how they inspire their friends and family to get active. Projects can take the form of an essay, art project or song.
- Grades 9-12: Get Healthy, Be Active Project: High school students are challenged to tell how they stay healthy. Projects can range from videos, artwork, essays, or a personalized exercise routine.
All submissions need to be mailed to Earth Fare: 145 Cane Creek Industrial Park Drive, Fletcher, N.C., 28732. Each of the three contests will have a winner. Each of the three will receive six food field trips to participating AIR restaurants, including Tupelo Honey Cafe, The Green Sage, Corner Kitchen, Laughing Seed Café, Bouchon and the Blue Ridge Dining Room at The Grove Park Inn. Earth Fare even will provide transportation.
All participants will receive a goodie bag, and all classrooms get a catered lunch provided by Earth Fare.
For more information, contact Jennifer Brewer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Hunger Action” means getting food to those kids who need it, as well as helping them understand how important nutrition is for their health and development. Let’s all pitch in.