Second Harvest battles summer hunger with innovative feeding program
16th June 2014 · 0 Comments
For thousands of children and their families in south Louisiana, summer vacation brings an end to the nutritious meals they rely on through the free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch program during the school year. In the absence of these meals, Second Harvest Food Bank’s annual Summer Feeding program, now in its fifth year, is all the more important. Second Harvest is operating the largest summer feeding program in the state again this year feeding approximately 3,900 children at 60 program sites. Children enrolled in these programs will receive breakfast and lunch daily throughout the nine week program providing an estimated 175,000 meals in total. All of the meals are prepared in the Community Kitchen located at the Second Harvest Food Bank facility in Harahan and meet all USDA nutrition guidelines.
According to Feeding America’s 2014 Map the Meal Gap findings, child food insecurity continues to rise in Louisiana. Twenty-one percent or 126,750 children in south Louisiana are food insecure, which means one in five children in south Louisiana are not sure where their next meal might come from. It is well-documented that children who go to school hungry have a harder time concentrating on classwork, struggle academically and often complain of stomach aches and headaches.
The summer camps enrolled in the Summer Feeding program are located in areas that have high enrollment in the federal free/reduced meal program. This summer, meals will be served to children in summer camp programs in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. John parishes and a satellite location in Iberia Parish.
To implement its far-reaching Summer Feeding Program, Second Harvest hired 19 AmeriCorps VISTA summer associates, four food- service workers from area schools and recruited support from its core group of Community Kitchen volunteers to help prepare, plate and deliver breakfast and lunch to the sites, with shifts beginning as early as 5:30 a.m.
“The Summer Feeding program is largely successful because of the dedication and hard work of our entire team, including our amazing volunteers,” Natalie Jayroe, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank, said Tuesday. “It is a wonderful example of people from all walks of life coming together for the children in our community.”
Over the past five years, Second Harvest has been able to grow the Summer Feeding program in part, due to continued support from ConAgra Feeding Children Better Foundation and the Emeril Lagasse Foundation. Relationships with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services, and the Louisiana State Department of Education ensure the long-term sustainability of Second Harvest’s Summer Feeding program.
This fall, Second Harvest Food Bank will once again provide programs such as Kids Café, the Backpack Program and will introduce a new school mobile pantry program. Using a combination of child-hunger programs across south Louisiana will help in the daily fight to end hunger in south Louisiana.
Acceptance and participation requirements for Second Harvest’s Summer Feeding program and activities are the same for all regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability, and there will be no discrimination in the course of the meal service. To learn more about Summer Feeding, Kids Café and other children’s programs, the overall mission of Second Harvest Food Bank or to volunteer, visit www.no-hunger.org.
This article originally published in the June 16, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.