When Will I Eat Again?
There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children-Nelson Mandela
The metropolitan Washington, DC area is the land of plenty-- farmers’ markets, upscale restaurants, high end stores and farmland. It is also full of contradictions. Montgomery County ranks 10th nationally for highest median household income in the country and yet 1 in 6 children are at risk for hunger according to the US Census ACS 2006-2008. 50% of adults skip meals because they cannot afford food according to Hunger for America 2010 and 118,220 adults in Montgomery County are at risk for or experience hunger.
For too many children in Montgomery County this is the land of food insecurity and hunger, especially on the weekends. While the school-based free and reduced price meals (FARM) program provides breakfast and lunch for thousands of students during the week, on the weekends too many children are hungry and literally do not know if they will eat before Monday morning.
For this reason, the Smart Sacks program at Manna began in 2005 to address the need for food on the weekends for elementary school children. The Smart Sacks program places nonperishable food into the backpacks of hungry children identified and referred to the program by teachers, parents and counselors. This year, Woodside United Methodist Church will partner with Manna and three neighborhood schools in Silver Spring-- Pinecrest, Oakview and New Hampshire Estates elementary, and continue its mission to serve those in need.
During a recent meeting with Rosa Diaz, the coordinator of Smart Sacks at Oakview and New Hampshire Estates elementary schools, Reverend Rachel, Shannon Parkin and I learned of the increasing need for food and other basics items that many of us take for granted. At New Hampshire Estates elementary school, over 90% of the children receive free and reduced price meals due to poverty. Without school meals, many children would not eat or grow to their fullest potential. Ms. Diaz is the energetic and passionate coordinator of the Linkages to Learning program at New Hampshire Estates who oversees the needs of school families for food, school supplies, clothes, medical services and more.
Beginning in September, members of Woodside will pack over 100 sacks per week with nonperishable food such as instant oatmeal, applesauce, milk, peanut butter, granola bars, rice, beans and more, and deliver the sacks to our partner schools every Wednesday or Thursday. 5 A DAY CSA will donate fresh fruit for the children as well. The school coordinator will then discretely place the sacks into the children’s backpacks ensuring that children will eat over the weekend.
What do we know about the effects of childhood hunger? Hungry children have delayed physical, mental and social development, slower brain and cognitive development, poor learning and academic performance and an increased risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
There are many uncertainties in life. Access to food in one of the most affluent counties in the country should not be one of them. Join us as we work to help children grow and live a healthy life.