CAFB Gives Kids Healthy Start to School Year - Capital Area Food Bank
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CAFB Gives Kids Healthy Start to School Year

By Shamia Holloway September 23, 2014

start-of-schoolThe first school bell of the year has rung and hallways echo with the chatter of children catching up after summer vacation. Many local students returned healthy and prepared for the school year, thanks to the Capital Area Food Bank’s child hunger programs. One such program, Family Markets, offers monthly market-style distributions of free fruits, vegetables, pasta, meat and other food items to children and families, providing up to 30 pounds of food primarily during the school year – with several regional distributions during the summer. Formerly the School Pantry Program, Family Markets are located directly on school grounds and allow families to shop for the food they want.
Washington, D.C. has the second highest rate of child hunger in the nation, with one in three children at risk of hunger. In the Washington metro region, nearly 150,000 children struggle with hunger daily. Summer is especially challenging for many children and families in the region who rely on free and reduced meals but don’t have access to meals when school is closed. This is where the food bank picks up the ball, too, working with the USDA Summer Food Service Program to ensure that children and teens have access to healthy summer meals.  Employing multiple program strategies this way, the CAFB ensures that children are consistently accessing nutritious food necessary for their future physical and mental health, academic achievement and future economic productivity.
“Family Markets and Summer Food Service work in tandem to contribute to the health and wellness in our communities, especially our children,” said Nancy E. Roman, Capital Area Food Bank President and CEO. “Hunger is at the root of so many important social developments and it undermines a strong society. If you’re hungry, you cannot learn. If you’re hungry you cannot grow into a healthy, productive adult.”
Launched in 2011, Family Markets has so far distributed 1.3 million pounds of healthy groceries to local families.  With 20 Family Market sites currently around the Washington metro region, 2,250 families receive monthly distributions of healthy fresh produce and other foods while school is in session and during the summer at select schools. The program is offered at Bruce Monroe School, Simon Elementary, Orr Elementary, Ketcham Elementary, Ballou Senior High School, Anne Beers Elementary, Neval Thomas Elementary, Friendship Blow Pierce Academy, Hart Middle School and Leckie Elementary in DC; Charles Carroll Middle School, Burtonsville Elementary, Greencastle Elementary and Glassmanor Elementary in Maryland; and Bren Mar Park Elementary, Carlin Springs Elementary and West Gate Elementary in Northern Virginia.  This past May, the program expanded to Kennedy Cluster Schools in Montgomery County, which will offer seven schools the opportunity to participate.  Family Markets are made possible through the generous support of corporate and individual donors.
“Family Markets are a great opportunity to get good, healthy food especially when you’re running low,” said Cynkithia Pelham, coordinator of Ketcham Elementary’ s Family Markets Program  and the school’s PTA President, who noted that many kids she serves have limited access to wholesome food. “Many times this is the only access to fresh produce that families will get and kids have to be fed.  We have a lot of need in our community and the two weeks’ worth of supplemental groceries that the food bank gives to families definitely helps.”  Pelham added that there is no stigma associated with picking up food since families can choose from an assortment of fresh fruits, vegetables and nonperishable items in a market-style environment.
The CAFB offers additional programs that make sure children are well fed during school vacations, weekends and after school hours. The Kids Cafe program provides free, healthy meals to over 2,000 children and teens daily afterschool and over the summer; and is offered at sites such as community centers, apartment complexes, churches, and other organizations that provide youth enrichment activities. The food bank’s Weekend Bag program offers bags of healthy groceries to 1,792 children in need to ensure they have food to eat on the weekend; and the Fresh Produce Weekend Bag supplies children and families with fresh fruits and vegetables.
The Capital Area Food Bank works tirelessly to improve the health and food security of those most vulnerable, children, at risk of hunger. The food bank’s child hunger programs help ensure access to quality, nutritious meals throughout the year and give the next generation a healthy start to their future.