Who’s Hungry?

Did you know that nearly one in ten Minnesotans live in food insecure homes (Second Harvest, 2015)? That means every single member of the Junior League of Minneapolis (JLM) knows someone; whether it be a cousin, a neighbor, or a friend who lives with food insecurities. We know that hunger adversely affects our communities in many ways from an increased burden on our health care system to ill equipped work force. But how does hunger affect the education gap?
Personally, I could write and tell you all about hunger and the negative correlations in education, but the writer Steve Holt at Take Part wrote a wonderful article on the subject that provides insight into this issue and its impacts. To read the full article find the link below:
http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/09/11/going-back-school-hungry

Children’s Health Watch put together an easy to read fact sheet that provides a very straight forward view of the issue. This approach is appealing to me as it gives the reader the facts even if it’s unpleasant. To read the full report find the link below:
http://www.childrenshealthwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/toohungrytolearn_report.pdf

The Junior League of Minneapolis (JLM) has focused their efforts on tackling the achievement gap in the Minneapolis area. So how are we doing it? One of our major programs is called Backpack Buddies. Founded in 2008, Backpack Buddies set out to reduce the effects of hunger by providing easy to prepare food to cover the needs of children residing in food insecure homes. Currently, the Backpack Buddies project sends out 800 backpacks per week across three different schools. That ends up being 15,000 pounds of food per month. The number are staggering. The even crazier thing is there is always more to be done.

To get more involved Junior League members can sign up for an unpacking/packing shift or donate to the Annual Fund. Community members can get involved by donating non-perishable food items to a local food shelf or signing up for a volunteer shift at Second Harvest or similar non-profits.

Feeding Hungry Students: One New Mexico Teacher Making a Difference

The day’s lesson isn’t the first thing on Marvin Callahan’s mind after the first school bell rings. Instead, the Albuquerque, New Mexico, teacher wonders whether his students have eaten. His routine begins by asking each one of his first-grade pupils what her or she ate for breakfast that morning.

“I have kids that come to school every day and they’re hungry,” Callahan said. “They can’t come in here and be at their best.”

Every day, the 20-year veteran teacher spends a chunk of his own salary to feed hungry kids in his classroom. For the kid who came to school on an empty stomach, Callahan either sends the child to the cafeteria or simply walks over to the supply closet behind his desk for some food. Many teachers at Comanche Elementary School use their own cash to buy supplemental food for their hungry students. More than 60 percent of the kids at Comanche qualify for the federal free or reduced-priced lunch program.

Callahan said that the school lunch is the last meal of the day for many students. He began to think about what his kids were facing after Friday’s dismissal bell. So Callahan and the school counselor, Karin Medina, started a backpack program for the Comanche students who need the most help on the weekend. Every Friday, kids from 25 families get meals and two snacks to take home, enough to fight their hunger pangs until Monday arrives.

The Comanche backpack program is not an official nonprofit, nor does it have any outside funding. The program doesn’t even have a name. However, even without a name, it serves as an example of community generosity, which has others aiding it. A local business brings by boxes of food weekly, and a Boy Scout troop has donated money twice this year.

Teachers feeding their students isn’t uncommon in our nation’s schools. In fact, 73 percent of teachers have hungry students in their classes, according to a report issued in 2013 by the advocacy group No Kid Hungry.

(Taken from a collection of articles and interviews from the fall of 2014. Google Marvin Callahan for more information.)

Post contributed by Kristy Barnett.

Opportunities To Give Back During The Thanksgiving Holiday

This week, Thanksgiving is upon us and many of us are preparing to leave town to enjoy the holiday with family, while others may be putting the finishing touches on their menus in anticipation of hosting the feast for the first (or fifth) time. Between curling up and watching football, and braving the crowds to score a Black Friday deal, we will pause to recognize all we have to be thankful for.

Not everyone in the Twin Cities is fortunate enough to have an abundance of food, or food at all, this holiday season, but for those of us who do, it’s a great time to give back. There are an abundance of volunteer opportunities available.  One of the ways the Junior League of Minneapolis works to address the achievement gap is by providing food to children through the Backpack Buddies program, since it is easier to focus on learning when not focusing on being hungry.  If you are still looking for a way to give back this week, and help families in the process, the options below are just a sampling of opportunities available to help provide food for families in need:

Neighbors, Inc. Holiday Volunteers

Neighbors, Inc. provides emergency assistance programs to low-income families in and around St. Paul. They have a list of food items you can donate, and are also looking for volunteers for holiday-related tasks.

NorthPoint Health and Wellness Thanksgiving Food Delivery, Minneapolis

NorthPoint is seeking volunteers to help distribute frozen turkeys and side dishes to families in north Minneapolis.

If you would like to negate a few of those Thanksgiving calories, here are some charitable races that focus on collecting food for people in need:

Turkey Day 5K – Lifetime

Participants in this downtown Minneapolis 5k are asked to bring as many non-perishable items as they can carry to help stock local food pantries.

Fast Before the Feast Race

Run the 5K, 10K or Fun Run (1/2 mile) in White Bear Lake to help them meet their goal of raising 10,000 lbs of food for the community this year.

Happy Holidays!

Minnesota House Passes Lunch Bill

Last Thursday, the Minnesota House unanimously passed a bill that would authorize $3.5 million in 2015 to ensure that all children who qualify for the 40-cent reduced lunch are not denied a hot meal at school.

The measure is the result of a study by the Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid survey of 309 public Minnesota school districts and found that 46 school districts (15%) reported “…a policy or practice of an immediate or eventual refusal to serve hot lunch or an alternative meal to a child who cannot pay.”  The legislation closes the gap between the federally funded free lunch program and the reduced-price lunch program.

The measure now moves to the State Senate where similar legislation will be reviewed by the Education Policy Committee.