Feeding programs give kids hope
One in four children in the Ozarks are at risk of going hungry
Thousands of children living right here in the Ozarks have a secret — they are hungry.
Some of these kids are hungry every day, and some might experience it only on the weekends of the school year or when they aren’t in summer programs. But for the one in four kids facing this struggle, it is a painful reality.
Meeting 9-year-old Presley, you wouldn’t know some nights she goes to bed hungry. She has a sweet smile and bubbly demeanor. Presley is just like any other child. She wants to do well in school and have fun at recess, but when she feels the pain of hunger in her stomach, it’s hard to be a kid.
“Being hungry makes me feel sad because I can’t eat enough. So I can’t really get A’s on my school work,” the Springfield elementary student shared. “We don’t have enough money to buy cereal and stuff to have for breakfast. It is hard to think about not having enough food at home.”
But there is hope.
Ozarks Food Harvest provides kids like Presley more than 70,000 meals and snacks through summer feeding programs, and 432,200 meals during the school year through the After-School and Weekend Backpack programs. In addition, The Food Bank educates families with food insecure children on pantries in their cities.
The Ozarks community understands that kids who don’t have enough to eat suffer. And that’s why thousands of donors and volunteers give of their time and treasure year after year to make sure these kids have a chance for a bright future.
Children who don’t have enough to eat suffer physically and emotionally. They are not only missing the nutrients needed to grow, but young children don’t understand why friends at school always seem to have food, but when they go home sometimes mom or dad doesn’t have anything for dinner.
“Malnutrition and undernutrition seem to be far-away issues … but this simply isn’t true. Many children right here in the Ozarks also suffer from undernutrition or food insecurity,” said Alyse Fields, dietitian with CoxHealth. “This means they do not have adequate nourishing food to support their needs of growth and development.”
Fields said that children who are undernourished experience metabolic changes that cause them to have excessive weight gain. These children also have higher levels of cortisol, which is linked to depression and cognitive defects.
“Similar studies reveal undernourished children suffer from lower reading and mathematics scores,” she said. “Though these consequences occurring in our own backyard can seem overwhelming, something can be done. Programs such as the Backpack Program through Ozarks Food Harvest not only provides nourishing food but also food consistency to protect against obesity, as well as brain food — a chance for these children to be successful in school and in their futures.”
Presley shared that when she grows up, she wants to be a veterinarian. Not having enough to eat now can have dire consequences on her ability to be her best self when she grows up. But thankfully, each weekend during the school year, she takes home a bag filled with six nutritious meals and during the summer, she attends programs that serve meals and snacks.
“The best part of the food bags is the cereal,” Presley shared. “The food bag helps me because I want to get A’s on everything … when I get the Hope Note in the food bag it makes me feel happy.”
There are thousands of children like Presley living in our community. It takes everyone coming together doing what they can to make sure no child goes hungry.
A $300 gift feeds a Backpack child for a year