On October 28, 2014, United Way of Brevard, Project Hunger and The Children's Hunger Project joined to present the 2nd Annual Child Hunger Summit. Over a hundred religious leaders and congregation representatives heard speakers tell of the silent hunger and malnutrition problem with young kids in Brevard County. They learned how their congregations can generate the change necessary to assist hungry kids here in our own backyard.
CLICK HERE to see what FLORIDA TODAY had to say about the 2nd Annual Child Hunger Summit.
A Brevard School Board nutritionist, pediatrician, pediatric behavior analyst, social worker and pastors framed the dangers of childhood malnutrition and hunger as it relates directly to early childhood learning. Dangers such as inhibited cognitive development and doing poorly in school are just a few of the problems associated with childhood hunger.
Dr. Lisa Cosgrove of Atlantic Coast Pediatrics pointed out that many of the children we see as “problem” children are actually hungry with malnourishment causing behavior problems such as inattention, anxiety and aggression.
April Kashdan, a registered Dietitian/Nutritionist with Health First, commented, “When a child lacks proper nutrition, the proper cognitive development of their brain does not take place. The child will lack the proper ability to perceive, think, and gain understanding. This is a terrible burden for any child”.
Pastor Tom Walker, Senior Pastor of CenterPointe Church in Palm Bay made this observation, “We can’t feed everyone, but we can feed someone. We might not be able to provide food for all the children in the Sudan, but can provide food for all the kids in Brevard”.
Anthony Fischetti, Pediatric Behavior Analyst with Basix Behavioral Health, had the following observations: “Many of the youth I worked with had issues of stealing and lying. If they were caught they would often lie to avoid getting punished for their bad behavior. Based on my observations these youngsters were not stealing and lying because they were ‘bad’ kids, but they were stealing and lying to survive-they were hungry.”
Dawn Menz, Food and Nutrition Manager with the Brevard School District pointed out that The Children’s Hunger Project meets the important need of providing weekend meals to fight childhood hunger and malnutrition. According to Ms. Menz, “Feeding a hungry child can prevent malnutrition, decrease behavioral issues, and increase cognitive learning.
Jo Ann Russell, recently retired from the Brevard School District as a social worker, presented firsthand accounts of kids troubled by hunger and the effects it has on their school work and attitude toward school.
Two sisters stood in front of Ms. Russell looking visibly worried. Both stole food, telling Russell that they were hungry and went to bed hungry. Then the oldest said something Ms. Russell had not anticipated. She said “don't tell our mother that we said we were hungry”.
According to Ms. Russell, "That's the sad reality of many of our families. The children are coming to school hungry". Both girls were signed up to participate in the Children's Hunger Project weekend meal program and both are now doing better.
Corky Calhoun, Senior Pastor at Georgianna United Methodist Church in Merritt Island, leads a congregation that has many missions in the community involving schools and young children. Pastor Calhoun summed it up best when he proclaimed, "We believe the church exists to give itself away. We truly believe that we can transform our community, one child at a time."
Dr. Mark Mullins, South Area Superintendent for the Brevard School District, observed that the road to education and, ultimately, a more successful life, starts with what happens to a child in elementary school. According to Dr. Mullins, “Without proper nutrition, the elementary school age child will not have the foundation for doing well in their school career.”
Even if a child has a stable home environment with two parents, has good health care, and goes to an excellent school, without proper nutrition, the child is doomed to a lower learning level in school and a lifetime of underachievement.
At the Child Hunger Summit, religious leaders learned what their roles could be in helping to solve the local hunger issue with our kids. They now know that the key to solving the problem is local, grassroots and within their grasp. Master of Ceremonies and President of United Way, Rob Rains, joined Sarah Anthony and Bob Barnes of The Children's Hunger Project in urging each congregation to simply "adopt" one elementary school, the one closest to their congregation.
Central Florida News 13 Coverage of Child Hunger Summit
Photos by Cathy Heinz Photography, the official photographer of The Children's Hunger Project.