In Brevard County the number of children in the free and reduced-price meal program exceeds 50%. Some elementary schools have 80% or more of their kids on the free and reduced-price meal program with many of them at risk of childhood hunger and malnutrition.
The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in over 100,000 public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions and provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches each school day. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Children from families with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals. Children from families with incomes over 185 percent of poverty pay a full price. For the period July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011, 130 percent of the poverty level is $28,665 for a family of four; 185 percent is $40,793.
When we talk about risk of childhood hunger we base it on the fact that the lunch program available in public schools around the country has been recognized by our government and various charities as the key indicator of hunger risk and poverty in a geographic area.
Childhood hunger leads to a weaker immune system, difficulty in learning, paying attention in class and behaving properly to retain what they learn. Hungry kids are sick more often and have lower academic achievement.Brevard County Schools, to their great credit, are able to provide a free breakfast plus a healthy lunch through the program during the week. For some students, though, lunch on Friday is the last regular meal they will receive until the following Monday. The Children's Hunger Project provides weekend meals and fights childhood hunger and malnutrition during the school year. Teachers and school administrators, those on the front line of caring for our children while they are away from their parents during the week, know firsthand of the weekend hunger problem. The teachers know as they wave goodbye on Fridays which students will not have proper nutrition over the weekend. They know which students will arrive Monday morning ill-prepared to learn properly.
We look with horror at pictures coming from other countries in which children are hungry. We generously give to charities feeding children in those countries. It is time that we address childhood hunger in our own back yard
No child in our great country should go two days without proper food and nutrition. The fault lies in many places, some that come to your mind and some that have came to the mind of many others as they learned of the problem. The fault does not lie, however, with the child.
The Children's Hunger Project has recognized the problem and seeks your help.