Feeding and Fueling Part 1: Solving Youth Hunger

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 We’ve all heard the classic parental phrase – “Eat your food! There are hungry kids somewhere in the world” – or something along those lines.

I remember my parents saying this to me when I was younger, but I always pictured those hungry kids somewhere else, in another state or another country somewhere, but not here in my little town of Mankato, MN. I just didn’t think “stuff like that” happened here. Well, now that I’m an adult, I realize that unfortunately it does. 

Did you know that 1 in 6 children in the state of Minnesota face food-insecurity — many of them relying on the meals they get while at school as their main source of food & nutrition?

Really think about that for a moment… 1 in 6 kids do not have adequate access to the food they need to be successful in life. Wow.

As a mom of two little boys, it’s hard to imagine not being able to provide them with a basic need like food. It’s hard to imagine the thought of them going to school with a grumbling tummy because they didn’t get enough food to eat at home. It’s hard for any of us to imagine these things, but it’s important that we are all at least aware of these issues, and that we recognize a need for change in our community, and that we help in whatever way we can. 

There are many circumstances and hardships that can cause a family to be faced with food insecurity, with the top 3 being: High cost of housing, low wages, and medical costs. An unexpected medical bill, loss of a job, or any other hardship in a family can completely derail a budget and the ability to pay all of the bills.

Many parents are faced with the difficult choice of deciding whether they should pay their rent or buy groceries. Thankfully there are many great resources available to these families and parents, to help them get through these difficult patches, including the organization that I began working for about a year ago, FOCP. 

Feeding Our Communities Partners (FOCP) is working towards solving youth hunger. FOCP is not only offering direct support to those 1 in 6 youth who are faced with food insecurity, through the work of their two programs – The BackPack Food Program, for elementary students, and the Power Pack Program, for middle school students – they have also tasked themselves with the mission of solving youth hunger locally. That is a big task, and not one that will happen overnight. Through the work of community conversations, creating partnerships, collaboration with other organizations, and education and awareness, FOCP hopes to one day end the cycle of youth hunger. 

FOCP will serve close to 1,000 kids in 21 public schools this school year. Funded by grants and community donations, the BackPack Food Program provides healthy, well-balanced packs of food, for weekends and school breaks. The packs are discreetly placed into the child’s backpack on Friday’s or the last day of school before a break, by the student’s teacher. The Power Pack Program addresses the complex needs of middle school students who may require an additional boost of nutrition and energy to sustain them after school and between extra-curricular activities. Power Packs may also be used to help alleviate hunger on weekends.

  With a small staff of only 5 employees, FOCP cannot do this work alone! They rely on roughly 60 volunteers per week to pack the food packs, deliver the packs, and distribute the packs, along with the hundreds of Teachers, School Social Workers, and Administrative Staff who are the advocates & champions for these programs in their schools! 

I hope that you’ll join us in this mission to solve youth hunger in whatever way you can – whether it’s by volunteering, making a donation, or simply by being more aware. To learn more about FOCP and how you can get involved, please visit http://www.feedingandfueling.org 

Hungry for more?! This is part-one of a three part series! Stay tuned for part two next week, as we sit down with School Social Worker, Molly Fox, to get some tips on how to talk about the tough stuff with your kids, and how to instill a spirit of philanthropy & acceptance in your children. 

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Growing up in a family of 5 girls, Rachel had never pictured herself as a “Boy Mom”, but now that she is one, she loves it! Her oldest son, Paul is almost 8, and he loves reading, writing stories, Legos, and Tae Kwon Do! William is 4, and he is into sports, Batman, trucks, and is obsessed with donuts! Rachel met her husband, Chris, when they were in 9th and 10th grade at Mankato West High School, and they’ve been together ever since! After High School they lived in Minneapolis for 7 years, but always knew that they would move back to this great community when they were ready to start their family! Rachel works for a local non-profit focused on solving youth hunger, which is something she is very passionate about! She is also an Interior Designer, and works part time at a local clothing boutique! She loves volunteering at her son’s school, and is also the President of the PTA! Some things that keep Rachel happy & sane are early morning fitness classes at the Y, running, a glass of wine with friends or family, shopping, coffee, and getaways with her hubby.