Feed the Children: Feed Futures by Feeding Minds

Malia loves books. While her reading level doesn’t match her age or grade, she digs in with gusto to any book she can get her hands on. When she is actually in class, her teacher can always count on her to curl up with a book any chance she gets.

Malia, her brother, two sisters, and mom are what her school considers to be homeless. The Los Angeles Unified School District’s Homeless Education Program describes the challenges faced by students like her in a letter they wrote to us recently: “High mobility, precarious living conditions, and poverty have an enormous impact on the educational success of our students.”IMG_6090

Malia doesn’t get to attend school every day like the other kids because her address keeps changing, on the days that she actually has an address. Catching the bus to school is nearly impossible. She misses many days of school because it’s just so difficult to get there.

Malia has her days, just like any child, in which she doesn’t want to do the work required of her. But most days, she’d rather be in school. Days outside of class are long, boring, and hungry. The school is cool in summer, warm in winter, and dry in the rain. The bathrooms have hot water, the lights stay on, and she gets to eat a good breakfast and lunch. And it has a library with books she can read for free. Even on a bad day, she has to admit that being at school beats being cooped up inside a car or wandering downtown trying not to attract unwanted attention.

In February, a Feed the Children truck rolled into Malia’s town and unloaded boxes full of backpacks, books, school supplies, hygiene items, and snacks at the school. Staff in the Homeless Education Program began calling students immediately, thrilled to surprise them with brand new backpacks and school supplies.

Malia remembers the day clearly. She had actually made it to class that morning, and the lunch had been a favorite. After the final bell rang, her social worker found her wandering toward the exit, a few papers and a tattered math book thrown into a plastic grocery sack.

“Malia, I have something for you.”

She followed the woman into an office where a beautiful brand-new purple backpack sat on the desk, its girth giving away that it held more than air and some packing paper.

“Open it up!”

Malia unzipped the bag (the zipper worked!) and breathed in the scent of new: crayons, colored and #2 pencils, pencil sharpener, erasers, a notebook, folder, pencil pouch, scissors. Two new books to read. TWO! A re-sealable bag with soap, shampoo, comb, toothbrush, and toothpaste. Another smaller bag with granola bars and dried fruit. She couldn’t remember ever having her own brand-new school supplies.

“This is nice. Thank you!”

She tucked the grocery sack and math book into her new backpack, poked her arms through the straps, and walked out of school just like a regular kid. First order of business – find somewhere to curl up with her new books.

***

At Feed the Children, we do just that. We feed children.


But if you’re like many of us, you may be asking yourself, “What do backpacks have to do with feeding? And what happens when the children you feed get hungry again? Is it enough to feed a child today? 

We say, “NO.”

Food for today is essential. People don’t function well when they are hungry, and children struggle to learn when their stomach is growling.

But unless we address the root causes of hunger, we aren’t changing anything.  Children and their families need the skills, education, and resources to provide for themselves and improve both their present and their future.

That’s why we feed futures by feeding minds. Going to school is one of the best ways to help people rise above the cycle of hunger.

But for children without a permanent home, going to and finishing school can seem like an insurmountable challenge. It’s all the more difficult when the adults in their lives can’t provide food on a regular basis, let alone purchase school supplies.

Every year, 1.6 million American children go to sleep without a home of their own. Imagine what their day is like when they wake.

So Feed the Children helps students stay in school by providing them with backpacks full of school supplies and personal care items. Since the launch of our H.E.L.P. (Homeless Education and Literacy Program), we’ve distributed over 700,000 backpacks to children in all 50 states who are homeless.

If feeding children in body and mind gets you jazzed, we’d love to have your help.

You can donate a backpack for a child who is homeless in the U.S.IMG_7445

Or, a Backpack Build event is a fun way for your group or organization to provide hands-on help for at-risk children right in your own community. For far less than retail cost, you can have brand-new backpacks and school supplies delivered to your door. Then gather your group, load up those packs together, and deliver them to local children in need! Contact us for more information.

Hunger Headlines- Week of September 8

See what is going on in the world of hunger this week. Check out these headlines:

Thought Leadership

Leadership Lesson: The Burden and Blessing

Feed the Children President and CEO Kevin Hagan writes this week about his responsibility as a leader. It’s a blessing he says to interact with thousands of children across the world who are blessed because of our programs, but he also feels the burden to do more! It’s a conviction that he hopes our staff around the world also feels. Read this post on Kevin’s blog.

Poverty News

Gap in Diet Quality Between Wealthiest and Poorest Americans Doubles, Study Finds

Although the study found that the diet of all Americans improved on average between 2005 and 2010, the progress masked a decline in diet quality among the poor. The result: a doubling of the gap in diet quality between the wealthiest Americans and the poorest. Access to quality food at supermarkets is a key. Read this National Geographic article.

Poverty rate higher in suburbs, than cities, including Seattle area

When we think of poverty in the US, our mind often goes to the inner city, assuming that poverty is concentrated in urban area. However, a new study released recently states otherwise. From 2000 to 2011, the number of Americans living below the federal poverty level ($23,492 for a family of four in 2012) rose about 36 percent, to 46.2 million. Contrast that with the number of suburban poor, which grew 64 percent. Read more in the Seattle Times article

Domestic Hunger News

America May Have Worst Hunger Problem of Any Rich Nation

According to Gallup’s findings, cited by the OECD, Americans are far more likely to say they were unable to pay for food than citizens of other rich countries. In 2011 and 2012, 21 percent of U.S. citizens reported food trouble, versus 8 percent of British survey takers, 6 percent of Swedes, and 5 percent of Germans. Estonia and Hungary had bigger problems with food affordability than the U.S., but both are relatively poor among Global North nations. Read the rest on Slate

Food-Stamp Use Starting to Fall

After soaring in the years since the recession, use of food stamps, one of the federal government’s biggest social-welfare programs, is beginning to decline. 46.2 million Americans received food stamps in May (the latest data available), down 1.6 million from a record 47.8 million in December 2012. Some 14.8% of the U.S. population is on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, down from 15.3% last August, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. Read more good news on the Wall Street Journal.

International Hunger News

World Water Water Week: Five Countries Most Affected by Water Scarcity

At Feed the Children, we celebrated World Water Week August 31-September 5 with many other organizations. The World Water Week was instituted by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) in 1991 to raise awareness on water issues. Do you know the five countries most likely to face drought? Educate yourself. Read the International Business Times article here. 

Hunger Headlines – Week of August 25, 2014

See what is going on in the world of hunger this week. Check out these headlines:

Thought Leadership

Leadership Lesson: Taking Time to Celebrate

Feed the Children CEO and President, Kevin Hagan writes this week more about his recent visit to Kenya to launch the new Feed the Children brand in Africa. “We must celebrate our victories. It is so easy in the non-profit world to be overcome with the needs around the world that we don’t take time to stop and see how far we’ve come as industry.” Read the entire post here.

Poverty News

People in poverty tend to look for quick health fixes: study

People in low-income brackets are more likely to look for a quick fix when it comes to getting healthy, suggests a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers at Concordia University in Montreal found that people in such brackets were less likely to try cutting back on sugar, working out more or drinking more water, and more likely to reach for diet pills, according to study leader Lisa Kakinami. Read this article on the New York Daily News.

If You Give Women in Poverty the Right Tools, They Will Flourish

When we raise up the women in the community, we also raise up the children. A new study examines the economic growth of several communities in Africa where women are given tools to thrive. Read this article on The Huffington Post.

Domestic Hunger News

Hit by poverty, Ferguson reflects the new suburbs

The violent confrontations between police and citizens in Ferguson, Missouri, highlight the rapid demographic shift in the suburbs, which are now home to a majority of the nation’s poor. There’s a growing number of people living below the poverty line in the suburbs, more than we might have imagined. Read this article on CBS Money Watch.

International Hunger News

Drought Hits Food Supplies in Central America

Central America is having one of its worst droughts in decades, and experts warned Thursday that major farm losses and the deaths of hundreds of cattle in the region could leave hundreds of thousands of families without food. The agricultural losses are largely in corn and beans, basic staples of the region’s diet, the United Nations’ World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization said. Read this article on ABC News.

Ebola May Leave 1 Million People In Need Of Food Help

The deadly Ebola virus that has killed more than 1,000 in West Africa is disrupting the flow of goods, forcing the United Nations to plan food convoys for up to a million people as hunger threatens the largely impoverished area. Amid roadblocks manned by troops and pervasive fear among the population of the dreaded disease, the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola is increasingly impacting the food supply in three countries. Read this article on The Huffington Post.