How can we stop child hunger?

I have been having trouble with bills and such since I was laid off and Loaves & Fishes has helped me a lot in being able to provide food for my three children. It has been so helpful and everyone is so nice. I am diligently trying to find a job and I would love to give back and help others as much as they have helped me and my family. ~Joanne

Choosing healthy itemsAccording to Share Our Strength, more than 16 million kids in America live in households that struggle to put food on the table. That is 1 out of 5 kids. These statistics are especially troubling considering that a fraction of these children reside in the western suburbs. Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” research shows that 9.1% of DuPage County residents are food insecure; of this population, 16.4% are children.

What is food insecurity, though, and how does it impact a child’s health and well-being? The USDA defines food insecurity as not having access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food insecure families report that they cannot afford balanced meals, and as a result, household food intake is reduced and the family’s normal eating patterns are disrupted.

Courtesy of No Kid Hungry

Courtesy of No Kid Hungry

For children, a lack of food is detrimental to their overall development. Research by Children’s HealthWatch indicates the hungry children have trouble concentrating in the classroom which often results in poor academic performance. Moreover, hungry children are more likely to develop headaches, stomachaches and colds and display behavioral problems. According to Dr. John Cook, Professor at Boston University and Researcher for Children’s HealthWatch, “Children are the primary engine for long-term economic growth and prosperity. They provide leadership, innovation and revenue to upgrade our social infrastructures and provide the resources we need to be healthy and happy as we become ‘the elders.’”

To ensure the well-being of the next generation of leaders, Loaves & Fishes has developed specialized grocery initiatives that serve this at-risk population with nutritious food items. Through our School Nutrition Initiative, Loaves & Fishes supplements a family’s normal groceries with extra breakfast items, including milk and eggs, so children have a healthy start to the day. Over the summer months, when government-subsidized lunches are not available, Loaves & Fishes provides summer lunch items, and during the school year, nutritious after-school snacks are distributed.

LOAVES AND FISHESLoaves & Fishes assisted 8,516 children 18 and under last year, and we project an increase in our next fiscal year. In addition to these special nutrition initiatives, Loaves & Fishes seeks to end child hunger by empowering parents toward self-sufficiency through programmatic support, such as job search support, computer classes, public benefit assistance, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, legal solutions, financial literacy classes and nutrition counseling. By addressing the barriers that low-income families encounter, Loaves & Fishes can reduce child hunger in the western suburbs.