Helping End Childhood Hunger
By Kate Lythgoe, Food Programs Manager
Are there ever times when the food for you and your family just isn’t enough but there isn’t any money to buy more? You may be food insecure.
What does this mean? Being food insecure (or having food insecurity) means you aren’t able to purchase food or have access to food resources, such as living in an area where the nearest grocery store is several miles away and you don’t have reliable transportation to get there. A family is food insecure they live in hunger or have a fear of starvation. They don’t know when their next meal will be or if they have to choose between paying rent or buying groceries.
During a recent screening of American Winter, an HBO produced movie which follows 8 families in Portland, Oregon struggling to make ends meet during the economic down-turn of 2008, a mother said she would skip eating lunch so her children could. This upset the children because they wanted to make sure Mom had enough to eat. The oldest daughter (age 11) made sure Mom would take her lunch with her to work by putting post-it notes all over the house to remind her.
This reflects how particularly devastating food insecurity can be for children. It increases their vulnerability, their sense of instability and the potential for long-term consequences. It also impacts their physical development since inadequate nutrition can permanently alter a child’s brain architecture and stunt their intellectual capacity, affecting the child’s learning, social interaction and productivity. Children who do not receive what they need for strong, healthy brain development during early childhood may never recover their lost potential for cognitive growth and eventual contributions to society.
The White House Council of Economic Advisors has released a report that indicates SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), commonly known as food stamps, has a huge benefit for kids. Nearly half (44%) of all people who participate are children, and families with kids receive 67% of all SNAP benefits. Food insecurity rates among kids falls by 33% after families have been receiving benefits for about six months (No Kid Hungry).
Kids who receive SNAP benefits are healthier, do better in school and are more likely to focus and behave in class. Kids who have access to SNAP benefits are 18% more likely to graduate from high school, and when kids are well nourished, their test scores go up (No Kid Hungry).
While SNAP benefits make a tremendous difference in our children, it just isn’t enough. Toward the end of the month, when SNAP benefits are spent and food budgets are tapped, test scores drop and discipline problems rise. No Kid Hungry research shows as much as an 11% increase in disciplinary action between the first and last week of the month for kids from low income families.
This gap between the first week and the last week of the month is what we aim to bridge at Tri-Lakes Cares.
Tri-Lakes Cares was originally founded in 1984 as a food pantry and our food programs continue to be the cornerstone of service. Tri-Lakes Cares operates three food programs that have, and will continue to, support children living in northern El Paso County.
- Help Yourself
Fresh produce, dairy, eggs and bread are donated by Care and Share, Monument King Soopers, Monument Safeway, Monument Natural Grocers, Hwy 105 Kum & Go, Interquest Kum & Go, Northgate 7-11, Academy Which Wich, Briargate Panera and Northgate Kneaders. Their donations are distributed every Monday and Thursday during our client service hours. Due to the generosity of these donors and the perishable nature of the food items, clients can visit the Help Yourself program twice a week.
- 160 kids were impacted by Help Yourself at least once in February 2016
- Supplemental Grocery Program
Once a month, eligible clients select grocery items from a standard list to provide a week’s worth of groceries, supplementing their pantry shelves at home. Their selected items are packed by volunteers who devote time to weigh, sort and pack food and sundries.
- 90 kids with their families benefited from at least one supplemental grocery order in February 2016
- Snack Pack
Once a week during the school year, our Snack Pack program is available to enrolled low-income students (K through 8th grade) at nine of District 38 schools. These are students who receive no-cost or reduced breakfast and lunch at school and who have been referred by school counselors. The Snack Pack program is intended to help children have food over the weekends.
- 337 kids receive snack packs each week
Here are two Case Manager Testimonies about our clients:
Sam* is married with five children. There were some unexpected surprises recently (medical expense, fewer hours at work, and a raise in school fees) that were really stressing the family out. They came into receive Help Yourself, Supplemental Grocery, and to see the nurse. Because of the food assistance TLC offered, they didn’t have to receive financial assistance. Sam’s family was able to pay the bills with their own income!
Deena* is married with four children. One parent works part-time and their spouse has been in and out of a couple of jobs. The family is receiving Medicaid but they didn’t think they qualified for SNAP. Case Manager Paula encouraged the family to apply. They applied for SNAP and are now receiving benefits. Deena said their family is so grateful for TLC and the services that they have received, especially the food. Paula can report that they are no longer food insecure. Deena’s family is now spreading the word to other families about Tri-Lakes Cares and SNAP!
* Names changed to protect privacy
Tri-Lakes Cares is a community based, volunteer supported resource center whose purpose is to improve people’s lives through emergency, self-sufficiency and relief programs. As the only food pantry and human services organization located in and serving the Tri-Lakes region of Northern El Paso County, we are a critical resource for those in need. How can you help us aid these families?
For more information on our Food Programs, contact Kate Lythgoe, Food Programs Manager, at 719.481.4864 x111 or FoodProgramsManager@tri-lakescares.org
If you need help with food, or have other needs, please contact a Case Manager today!
Mike (Last Names ending A-L): 719-481-4864 x 102
Paula (Last Names ending M-Z): 719-48-14864, x 112