There are an estimated 13 million children living in food insecure homes in the U.S (1). How can we let this happen? Food is a basic need! It's heartbreaking to think of so many children and their families trying to cope with the many negative impacts of food insecurity. How can children learn and grow and thrive if their bodies aren’t getting enough food? Food insecurity increases risk of depression, anxiety, illness and poor academic performance. And as Anna mentioned in a previous post, food insecurity increases the risk of developing disordered eating behaviors. This certainly makes sense. When your body doesn't consistently get enough food, it makes physiological and psychological adjustments to help you survive. Your body sends messages to eat what is available NOW because there might not be enough tomorrow. When this happens, you might feel ashamed. You might feel that the loss of control is your fault. Actually, it's not your fault. It's your body finding a way to get what it needs when food is available.
What can we do to help get food to children living in food insecure homes? At our neighborhood elementary school (where my older daughter, Caroline, went and my younger daughter, Ellie, still goes) almost 60% of the children are on free and reduced lunches. Many children from food insecure homes receive food through the national school lunch program and other federal programs like the school breakfast program, after school meals program and summer meals program.
School aged children receive meals during the school day, but what about meeting their needs on the weekends? In addition to the federal food assistance programs there are a number of private programs that help feed children and raise awareness about food insecurity. A few years ago a small group of parents with children at our school looked into finding a way to bridge this gap. After looking into a number of private programs and talking with the school social worker and parent liaison, we decided to implement the Blessings in a Backpack program to the school. The program currently feeds 100 children! The bags are sent home with children each Friday.
My younger daughter, Ellie, and two of her close friends recently expressed an interest in holding a bake sale to raise money and food for Blessings in a Backpack at their elementary school. They also wanted to have a food drive for the weekend meal program that's supported by ALIVE! at another local elementary school.
We set to work figuring out how we could get a spot at our neighborhood Saturday Farmer’s Market. They have space for 2 non-profits each week and we were lucky to get a spot pretty quickly. I wish I had had a checklist. Here's what we'll use next time. If you are interested in holding a food drive and bake sale in your neighborhood click here for downloadable steps to set up your food drive and bake sale.
Ellie asked friends at school who would be interested in helping. We created a Sign-Up Genius and I sent it out to their parents. I didn’t send it out until the week before the event, so I was worried we wouldn’t get enough baked goods or have enough help. We had a table full of baked goods and plenty of kids to sell them!
A few weeks before the date, Ellie and a friend made a banner to hang on the table. The kids also made a list of what we’d need the day of the sale/food drive to make it all happen. We put all of the supplies for the event in the buckets we would set out for the food drive donations. Click here for a downloadable link to a list of supplies you'll need the day of the event.
The day before the event happened to be a teacher work day. So we did a lot of baking! We made chocolate caramel oat bars,
strawberry rhubarb turnovers,
and the M & M cookies I wrote about in my Valentine's Day post.
The girls had a blast. I could hear them entertaining each other with scary stories while they were packaging everything. The girls decided how they wanted to price the items based on size and made stickers to place next to the items on the table. Next time, I think we’ll decide pricing before packaging items so we can price and packaged everything the same. Items ranged from $1 - $3.
I thought Ellie and I could easily do the set-up on our own. It was a little stressful getting everything set up with just the two of us. So, next time, I’ll create 4 slots for set up on the sign up. Everyone seemed to have a great time working to raise money, food and awareness about childhood hunger.
A couple of people asked us if we had a link where they could donate. Next time we’ll print out little slips of paper with the address to hand out in case people would rather donate from home. It was a gorgeous day, so there were LOTS of people at the Farmer’s Market. Lucky for us! The bake sale and food drive were both very successful! We will definitely do it again in the fall!
- No Kid Hungry - Share Our Strength, Facts on Childhood Hunger in America https://www.nokidhungry.org/sites/default/files/2017-12/Fact_Sheet-2016.pdf