The Capital Area Food Bank recently launched two food pantries that will provide free groceries to families at a place that is familiar, accessible and has a strong presence in the community – local schools.
I can still remember rushing home from elementary school, eager for the programming on TV, running around with neighborhood friends, and enjoying the all important after-school snack. Snack time was always at 3 pm. Midway between lunch and dinner, it was the perfect time to recharge and keep my brain sharp through the evening for homework and practicing my violin.
Millions of kids – 1 in 5 in the Washington metropolitan area alone- not only don’t get a snack after school, but they have to skip dinner too. These kids might feel sluggish after a full day of school, making running around with friends a daunting activity. As hunger sets in, they might find it difficult to focus on their school work, get frustrated, and skip homework once or repeatedly. They miss out on the chance to sit down with their families to share a meal and they go to bed with stomach aches and anxiety about their discomfort.
With help from the Meals for Minds grant from the Target Corporation, the School Food Pantry is the latest addition to the food bank’s programs. The idea is to enhance family involvement in school activities and provide much-needed food resources to the families. The current pantries are at Charles Carroll Middle School in New Carrollton, MD; and Bruce Monroe Elementary in D.C. Another site in D.C. will be added later this year.
At each school, 85-95 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunches, a reliable indicator of food insecurity. School food pantries help ease that stress for the students and their families. Once per month the food bank delivers fresh produce and non-perishable staple items to the schools for families to take home. The shares of food can weigh up to 40 pounds and provide a supplement to other forms of food assistance.
Lilian Hernandez, parent liaison at Bruce Monroe Elementary, was thrilled with the result of the first distribution. “The families were very pleased with the variety of the food provided, especially the fresh produce.”
Families and kids at both schools were all smiles at the distributions. I am excited to see what is in store for the coming months, when more families take advantage of this great resource and more kids have the food they need to succeed in school and beyond.