Fresh ideas: A little food for thought
Special to the Nevada Appeal
We won’t know for some time whether the stimulus package President Obama signed Tuesday is the magic bullet that jump-starts the economy. I am hopeful, although I know it will take months for any money to trickle down to the folks who really need it.
People across the country and here in Carson City are struggling with job losses. Work hours are being cut. Businesses are closing. Parents are finding it more difficult to simply house and feed their children.
When problems are so large, how can one person make a difference?
Enter Rebecca Rund, founder of Food for Thought. In 2006, Rebecca, a Fritsch Elementary School parent, organized efforts to feed five homeless students. Rebecca saw that many children who received free lunch and breakfast five days a week were going hungry on the weekend ” no food from lunch on Friday to breakfast on Monday.
As a mother, I can only imagine the anguish these parents face when confronted by a hungry child, an empty cupboard and no money.
Today, with the help of generous private donations, business sponsors and countless volunteers, Food for Thought has grown. It now serves more than 400 homeless and hungry students at elementary schools in Carson City and Storey County. That’s more than 6,500 meals per month.
Four more schools, including middle schools, are on the waiting list and will be added as resources expand and Food for Thought moves into a larger warehouse next month. According to Rebecca, they expect numbers to double in the next six to eight weeks.
Here are few facts to help us understand the scope and implications of hungry children:
– Eighty-five percent of homeless families are headed by single women escaping an abusive home.
– In 2007, 49 percent of Food Stamp recipients were children.
– The average age of a homeless person is 9.
– Food for Thought serves more than
11 percent of Carson City’s schoolchildren.
– Even mild under-nutrition experienced by young children affects their cognitive development. They get behind and stay behind.
– Homeless children who receive weekend food supplements have seen test score increases of 20-30 percent. Furthermore, absences and behavioral issues decrease by 40 percent.
What makes Food for Thought unique is that the food goes directly to students at school via a discrete practice of placing grocery bags in the child’s backpack. It isn’t dependent on a parent’s ability to take off work or arrange transportation to pick up food at a particular place and time.
Each bag contains shelf-stable food providing 3,000 calories, 100 grams of protein and 150 percent of the daily allowance of calcium and vitamin C. With the recent peanut butter recall, Food for Thought especially needs shelf-stable sources of protein, such as single servings of cheese or tuna and crackers.
For information on how you can help, go to nvfoodforthought.org or call 883-1011. The Web site has a complete list of their needs. Donations can be delivered to the Food for Thought warehouse, 3579 Hwy 50 East, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monetary contributions and grocery store gift cards are also welcome and can be sent to P.O. Box 656, Carson City, NV, 89702. Or sign up to volunteer an hour or more a month.
Every family does the best it can, but sometimes that just isn’t enough. Here is something you and I can do to help. Right here and right now. Consider Food for Thought as Carson City’s own little recovery plan, one that will help families survive until the economy turns around again. And we don’t need to wait months to judge its success. We know this one already is working.
– Lorie Schaefer is a retired teacher.