How could I have not known? I was closer to the problem than ever before, but I just couldn’t see it. How could I have been so blind? I had heard the statistic that 24 percent of Washington’s children experience food insecurity. Yet, it took me nearly two years on what I thought were the front lines to finally get it. I learned what every school teacher likely already knows.
A year ago January I attended a kindergarten orientation event for the Marysville School District’s parents and young children. I was representing the Marysville Community Food Bank together with a board member. We were invited to help make known to new parents that the Food Bank is here in the community to help out those families that need some food assistance. It’s a place to come when the cupboards aren’t providing what is needed to get by.
It was at this event where I met several principals and staff members of the many elementary schools in town. It was here and it was from them that I learned the secret. There are kids that leave school at the end of the day that do not get food again until they come back to school the next day. That’s worth repeating. There are kids that leave school at the end of the day that do not get food again until they come back to school the next day. How can that be? Of course it’s possible. But how can it be? And bigger yet, how can we let that happen? What’s life like for these kids when they go home for the weekend?
This encounter was the impetus to start a program in town to do something about this horrific problem. By last May we had collected enough donations and gained volunteer support to run a trial program at Liberty Elementary. For seven weeks we provided 20 kids with a package of food to take home from school for the weekend so they could easily feed themselves. The results were wonderful. Students that had been misbehaving or simply not paying attention on Mondays were settled down and more focused. Kids that likely spent their time in class thinking about the pain in their empty tummies were able to listen and learn. We named the program Food For Thought.
The trial program was a hit and the summer was spent ramping up to serve more kids in more schools once the new school year started. We are now serving over 100 children in six Marysville schools. Tremendously caring volunteers are selecting, packaging and delivering the food weekly to the schools. Tremendously caring school staff are getting the food into the little hands that are in need.
There is much more work to be done. The needs are great. There are a lot more young lives out there to assist with getting a better start. A better start that could change a life for a lifetime.
Now, you too know the secret. Take action while the secret is fresh in your mind. Reach out to contribute to or help “backpack” programs. Inquire at your local food bank or school to learn if a program is in place near you. And let the secret be known. It is through knowledge and action that we will make progress toward feeding our hungry children.
Dell Deierling is the Director of the Marysville Community Food Bank.