September is Hunger Awareness Month and all across the country, hunger-relief organizations and their supporters are working to provide information to their communities about the long-term effects food insecurity can have on our children, seniors, and families.
One in five children in San Diego County are food insecure, and studies are clear that this results in myriad detrimental outcomes for those children and their futures. According to the Hospital Association of San Diego & Imperial Counties, these outcomes include delayed physical and cognitive development, behavioral problems, and lower academic achievement and increased likelihood of needing to repeat a grade. Research has shown that physical sensations of hunger make it difficult for children to concentrate and learn, which means that food-insecure children often fall behind their peers in school. This increases the likelihood that the cycle of poverty will continue into adulthood, and for generations to come.
There are sensible and attainable solutions to solve this problem. Universal breakfast programs that serve children in class promote a healthy start to the day without stigmatizing the children who did not have breakfast at home. After-school meals through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) can be provided by community partners in safe places like recreation centers and affordable housing complexes to ensure that low-income children have adequate energy for homework and active play – and that they won’t go to bed hungry. The addition of increased food stamps benefits to families during the summer ward off the challenges of getting children to various summer meal sites, which are far underutilized.
The San Diego Hunger Coalition and the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank work in partnership to address these challenges throughout the year. The Food Bank provides weekend backpacks of food to children at schools across the county during the school year as part of our Food 4 Kids Backpack Program, and SDHC promotes and advocates for effective policy changes that focus on the systemic issues with existing federal meal programs.
Childhood food insecurity exists in all of our communities, and it is imperative that we do everything we can to solve this problem and give our children the opportunity they deserve to succeed. You can do this by donating to help fund the Food 4 Kids Backpack Program at the San Diego Food Bank, or working with the Hunger Coalition to advocate for proactive policies at the state and federal level.
For more information about San Diego Hunger Awareness Month, visit www.sandiegofoodbank.org/hunger or learn how to become a Hunger Free advocate through the San Diego Hunger Coalition by clicking here.