By S. Kelley Henderson, Chief Executive Officer, Action Ministries
Recently I introduced the analogy of a fruit tree to give a visual for our work together to end hunger for Georgia’s children. Together…yes, you are a part of this story as well!
The “low hanging fruit” identified in the previous article was related to improving access to existing resources for children in the school system. As more schools join the Community Eligibility Provision option for school meals, efficiencies will continue to offer balanced nutrition without the obstacles that come from class segmentation and opt in programs.
If we are going to effectively change the trajectory for children, perhaps the next step is the begin climbing beyond the fruit laden canopy and up to where future fruit is still forming. If you have ever owned a fruit tree, you know that leaving fruit on the tree too long can cause unintended consequences for future production. Pulling fruit frequently makes for a healthy tree, and the same could be said of hunger relief programs. Most studies focus on adult reporting of food access and its impact on their family. On one hand, this is valuable information, helping organizations plan for better distribution. On the other, the perspective of children experiencing the situation can help us improve the long-term outcomes of these same programs.
According to a 2018 study by the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in Louisiana, a research group focused on pediatric health, simultaneous surveys of adults and children experiencing food insecurity reveal some important differences. The study measured four areas of food insecurity related symptoms:
- General food related concerns (i.e. thinking about next meal, etc.)
- Depression symptoms
- Generalized anxiety symptoms
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms
The survey was designed to determine if differences in the level of concern for adults compared to children, led to more symptoms of food insecurity related issues for children. While there was alignment between adults and children reporting overall food related concerns, the children reported much higher levels of depression, anxiety, and OCD symptoms than their adult caretakers (Bernard, et al., Parent and child reports of food insecurity and mental health, 2018, p. 323). If children are impacted with higher rates of anxiety surrounding food insecurity than adults, the potential for long-term stress related health conditions and poor academic performance increases. In other words, our next generation is at risk, and efforts to address food insecurity must understand what children are experiencing.
At Action Ministries, we work directly with about 60 elementary schools to end weekend hunger. Teachers report that kids are better prepared to participate in the classroom on Monday morning when they have additional food support on the weekend. We launched a new initiative to more than double the number of schools we work with over the next few years, because this is the fruit that is “still forming” and they need us now, so that we can prepare them to be a part of our community in the future.
To learn more about the new initiative to End Hunger “Period” visit www.endhungerperiod.com and join our team!