Hunger exists everywhere and 1 in 5 or 16 million kids in America don't get the food they need every day. This takes a terrible toll on their health and development: they tend to have trouble learning and are more susceptible to having emotional and behavioral problems. Children are especially vulnerable to food insecurity in the summer and weekends when there is no access to school food programs. Food insecurity refers to USDA’s measure of lack of access to enough food to maintain a healthy active life.
In 2014, “Nourish the Need”, a food backpack program, was introduced to the Cliftondale community. The program brought awareness to the community and offered a viable solution to alleviate food insecurity in the community.
Cliftondale residents, churches, businesses, schools, government, non-profit organizations, corporations and organizations from other communities assisted with this nurturing effort in Cliftondale. These groups provided enough food to feed up to 50 children who were in need of food to eat on the weekends when school lunch was not available. Those who act on what they care about or what is needed are a community’s most valuable asset.
The children selected for the Nourish the Need program are on a free or low-cost meal program; they attend a Fulton County school; and have been identified by school educators/employees. The backpacks of food were distributed on Fridays (January 16 – May 15, 2015) to five Cliftondale schools. The schools that participated in Nourish the Need were: A. Phillip Randolph Elementary School, Cliftondale Elementary School, Renaissance Middle School, Sandtown Middle School and Seaborn Lee Elementary School.
Backpack programs only represent 4.2% of grocery programs in America.
The following year (August 2015 – Present), the Nourish the Need program began serving Fulton County School children in the Achievement Zone. The schools within the Achievement Zone have been identified as risk: they experience a high rate of student mobility, poverty and crime. Currently, Fulton County Schools are implementing strategies to provide additional resources and support to boost student achievement and food on weekends will assist in achieving their goal. The Nourish the Need program has expanded and is currently serving food backpacks to students at Banneker High School, College Park Elementary School, Feldwood Elementary School, Love T. Nolan Elementary School, Camp Creek Middle School, Seaborn Lee Elementary School and Randolph Elementary School.
Teachers reported that the children were excited to receive the food and that some students were more motivated and eager to learn. Ms. Scott, a Guidance Counselor at A. Phillip Randolph Elementary School, stated that two students displayed growth on their report cards from Q2 – Q3. She credits the Nourish the Need program for providing some of the nourishment that contributed to their success. Ms. Deavers, Parent Liaison at Seaborn Lee Elementary School said, “I personally see the need for the “Nourish the Need” program when I see the looks on each child’s face as they come to me on Friday to get their backpacks of food for the weekend. There is excitement, happiness and a positive outlook in the lives for these children.” Likewise, Ms. Millian, an Instructional Paraprofessional at Renaissance Middle School reported, “The children exhibit less anger on Monday mornings because they were able to have food to eat on the weekends provided by the program.” The parents stated they are grateful to receive the food and it has lessened the financial strains in their households. The most common sentiments that I have received from the children are that the food is good, and it makes them happy.
Hunger exists everywhere in America and children are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity in the summer and weekends when they don’t have access to school food programs. Food insecurity refers to the USDA’s measure of lack of access to enough food to promote a healthy active life at all times. The purpose of this program is to provide a backpack program in our community.