In 2007, I lamented that 36 percent of Carson City's schoolchildren qualified for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's free and reduced-cost meal program at school. Sadly, those numbers are worse now. Today, 45 percent of local students qualify. That vanishing middle class you're hearing about? This is what it looks like here, in our own community. Formerly middle-class families have become poor.
The poorest children come from families now called "food insecure." These families regularly lack the means to put enough nutritious food on the table for everyone to live healthy, active lives.
What should worry us most, however, is the effect food insecurity has on children. It goes way beyond a growling tummy. The impact of childhood hunger can last a lifetime. Hungry children are sick more often, recover more slowly and miss more school than well-nourished children. They often complain of headaches and stomachaches. They are less likely to get adequate medical attention. Hungry students have more trouble focusing and getting along. Their growth is stunted.
Moreover, poor children who are behind in third grade are six times more likely to drop out of school. Scientific evidence suggests they are less likely to become productive citizens.
Yes, free meals at school help. However, the reality is that some children go hungry between Friday's free lunch and Monday's free breakfast. There simply isn't enough food at home.
In 2006, Rebecca Rund, founder of Food for Thought, began feeding five students at one school. Today, under the leadership of Executive Director Stephanie Gardner, the organization serves nearly 700 children each week.
With the help of generous private donations, business sponsors, community food drives, fundraisers and countless volunteers, Food for Thought discreetly delivers nutritious weekend meals to every Carson City elementary and middle school, the Carson and Douglas Head Start programs, as well as selected schools in Douglas and Lyon counties.
Nonetheless, as the need grows, resources are a concern.
A benefit performance of "A Night of Buffet and Broadway" will be presented at the Carson Nugget on Nov. 5. Tickets are $30. If you'd like tickets or to help in any way, call 885-7770. You may also send donations to Food for Thought at P.O. Box 656, Carson City, NV 89702-0656 or visit www.nvfoodforthought.org.
While the so-called grown-ups continue to squabble about who's to blame for this economic mess and how to fix it, kids are hungry. Experts tell us it will take years for the country to get back to full employment. Children shouldn't have to wait. hey only get one chance at a healthy childhood. It's up to us to see that they get it.
• Lorie Schaefer is retired, mostly.