Food for Kids is Food for Thought (and Action)
- October 18, 2019 |
The U. S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as “the lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” Merrell Footwear, an active lifestyle brand, joins the Mast Store for the eleventh year in 2019 to provide Food for Kids (October 21-November 3), a cause that supports funding the weekend food efforts in each of Mast Store’s home communities.
Children are the most at risk with food insecurity. A growling stomach has an effect on a child’s body and also dampens his or her ability to learn or stay focused in the classroom. According to Feeding America, the percentage of children under the age of 18 living in food-insecure households is 17.9% in the United States. Sadly, in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, that rate is much higher at 22.6%, 20.7%, and 21.1% respectively. You can see how your state and county stack up if you visit the Map the Meal Gap interactive map.
By fueling their bodies with food, we are fulfilling a great need and providing a building block for their future success.
Lisa Cooper, president of Mast Store
Food insecurity is a multi-faceted issue, and one that the first step in resolving is understanding and awareness. In most cases, those living in a food-insecure household are gainfully employed but may be in a low-wage or low-skill job. When all the other necessities are taken care of – housing, transportation, medication, clothing – what’s leftover may be little or nothing, which leads to difficult decisions. WLOS took a look at hunger in Western North Carolina in the summer of 2019, and their story is similar to many faced across our communities and the nation.
Mast Store’s food security partners are putting their best foot forward with many services specifically targeting children. The weekend food backpack program is one of them; it provides nourishing, easy-to-fix foods for over the weekend – a time when children don’t have access to their support system of breakfast and lunch. During Food for Kids, when you purchase a pair of Merrell footwear, Merrell will make a donation to our local food security partner to fill a backpack with weekend food.
“We are thankful for Merrell’s support of this program,” said Lisa Cooper, president of Mast Store. “By fueling their bodies with food, we are fulfilling a great need and providing a building block for their future success.”
Merrell is a perfect partner for this program. Their overall brand goal is to remove barriers to enjoying the outdoors. By removing hunger as a barrier for learning and living, the steps for leisure and enjoying the beauty that surrounds us become attainable.
Here’s how the backpack program works. Teachers and school administrators know their kids and can tell a lot just by how they behave. When they confirm a student is food insecure, they work with the local food bank to get a backpack or bag filled with weekend food, which is then discreetly given to the child. It’s returned on Monday for refilling.
Teachers report improved participation and alertness in class, but that’s not all. One of our partners, Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, observed that these weekend bundles of caring also promote belonging. “We have a family of five that we currently send food home to. I’ve noticed an increase in the kids’ feelings of belonging. They attend school events more often, appear to be more responsive to recommendations, and are open to asking for other items they need. This food definitely helps.”
Our partners do so much with just a little. To fill a backpack with weekend food for a child for a month is roughly equal to a cheeseburger, fries, and a drink at a sit-down restaurant. You can learn more about our partners by following the links below:
Valle Crucis and Boone – Hunger and Health Coalition
Waynesville, Hendersonville, and Asheville – MANNA FoodBank
Greenville – Loaves & Fishes
Knoxville – Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee
Columbia – Harvest Hope
Winston-Salem – Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina
Food for Kids helps ignite the flame of learning and engagement in our future leaders, employees, and teachers. AND, it’s food for thought for us.