Feeding Children. Fueling the Future.
Maria and her husband both work full-time, but with a house payment, other bills and four growing children, it’s hard to make ends meet. So Maria and her family visit their local food shelf in Minneapolis once a month—support that Maria says helps her save money for crucial expenses for her children.
“My oldest kid is 14 years old, and my youngest is nearly two. They are normal kids and want to participate in activities,” said Maria. “Roberto likes to play soccer, and Vanessa wants to take a karate class. I’m trying to do the best for my kids, but that comes with sacrifices. I want them to be healthy and involved in programs, but that costs money. I want them to finish school, and even go to college. I want them to succeed.”
Maria’s story is a familiar one for parents and caregivers of young children who are experiencing hunger—and they make sacrifices in order to get their children enough food to live healthy lives.
How Hunger Hurts Children
One in six Minnesota children lives at risk of hunger—a statistic that has many real-world sobering effects on toddlers through teenagers. There is a critical connection between child nutrition and cognitive and physical development, and even short-term nutritional deficiencies can negatively impact a child’s health, behavior, emotional wellbeing and the ability to concentrate. Food stability is important for establishing a good foundation for a child’s future health, academic achievement and economic productivity.
Cheryl K. Rance, Family Engagement and Related Services Manager at The Harvest Network of Schools, a group of K-8 public charter schools in North Minneapolis, says she sees the effects of hunger daily in her schools’ classrooms. According to Cheryl, 93 percent of students at The Harvest Network of Schools qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
“During the day, the kids get a balanced lunch and snacks, but they may not have much food when they leave school,” said Cheryl. “Many are not eating breakfast, so they are starting the day off hungry and irritable, and they’re not ready to learn.”
Cheryl said that since the kids are growing, proper nutrition is especially important.
“The nutritional deficits associated with food insecurity affect academics, their behavior and the ability to interact with their peers. For example, we may have a student who is hungry because they don’t have food at home. But they can’t yet articulate that they’re hungry, so instead they may cry or act out. We have to ask questions to figure out why they are acting out, and more often than not, it’s because they’re hungry. So we give them a granola bar, and they’re ready to cooperate and learn,” she said.
Second Harvest Heartland’s Child Hunger Initiative
Second Harvest Heartland is committed to a number of powerful efforts in our Child Hunger Initiative that help more children and families gain access to wholesome food.
Our Food Bank
Through its core business, Second Harvest Heartland distributes more than 89 million pounds of food annually to over 1,000 food shelves, pantries and other partner programs in 59 counties in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We are one of the largest providers of emergency food to children in the state of Minnesota. More than 33 percent of clients served by the agencies that receive our food are children.
Food + You
Our new Food + You school-based hunger relief pilot program—lead funding provided by Target—offers food and the services of a Nutrition Navigator at 10 high-need schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul, helping directly feed students and their families each month, and will also be catalyzing schools and families to access nutrition programs that can increase students’ food security over the long term.
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)
This USDA program helps fill the missing meal gap during the summer months for kids who rely on free or reduced-price meals during the school year. Last year, SFSP provided more than 2.33 million meals to kids at 716 sites (like schools, parks, community centers) throughout Minnesota during the summer months.
Our team of Supplemental Nutritional Assistant Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) Outreach specialists and interns conduct outreach at community sites, where they screen households for SNAP eligibility and assist with the application process. Last year, we served nearly 1,500 children from more than 430 households in Minnesota.
Child Hunger Advocacy
We share the story of child hunger and advocate with our state and federal representatives on initiatives that help feed children and families—from Farm to Foodshelf* funding to support for various child and family nutrition programs.
Want to help provide food for kids this summer? Find out more about our Child Hunger Initiative here.