Disturbing Hunger Trends Haunt County

I was recently saddened to learn that the number of Henderson county students who qualify for the schools’ free and reduced meals program grew from 55% in the 2013-2014 school year to 59% in the current, 2014-2015, school year! This equates to 7,965 children!

Good nutrition is essential to a child’s proper physical growth, health and development. Children who experience chronic, unsatisfied hunger will not get the necessary vitamins and minerals needed to reach developmental milestones. The result is, children who are malnourished and vulnerable to childhood diseases and often have low immunity and poor overall health. Lack of proper nutrition and adequate food can also lead to the development of mental health problems, academic achievement and future economic productivity for a child.

One in four children in Henderson County is living in poverty. Poverty guidelines vary by household size, but in 2013, families with three people lived in poverty if their income was $19,530 or below. Families in poverty struggle to cover basic needs including food. Perhaps, in recent years, you’ve heard terms like “food insecurity.” When a family or person is “food insecure,” the availability and quality of food to which they have access is not adequate for an active, healthy life. National data shows that in 2012, more than one in seven US households (18 million) experienced food insecurity at some time during the year. All these households experienced limited or uncertain access to adequate food, including reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. About 7 million of these households had members who went hungry or skipped meals, an indication of very low food security.

In Henderson County, two of our 23 local schools, Sugarloaf Elementary School and Balfour Education Center, participate in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program, meaning the program offers school lunch and breakfast at no charge to all students enrolled in those schools. A school becomes an eligible CEP site based on the percentage of students in poverty in those schools.
To combat this problem for children, communities invest in several ways. Our local backpack programs and feeding programs are ways we, as community members, can get involved to make sure children in Henderson County have access to at least one healthy, nutritious meal each day. During the summer of 2015, the schools are partnering with our community to offer a Summer Food Service Program to provide healthy meals to children and teens in low-income areas at no charge primarily during the summer months when school is not in session. In Henderson County there will be three locations where children, ages 2-18, can receive a free meal during the day. They need our help as volunteers to make the program successful.

During the summer of 2015, the schools are partnering with our community to offer a Summer Food Service Program to provide healthy meals to children and teens in low-income areas at no charge primarily during the summer months when school is not in session. In Henderson County there will be three locations where children, ages 2-18, can receive a free meal during the day. They need our help as volunteers to make the program successful.

Meals, prepared by the Henderson County Public Schools’ Child Nutrition Department will be delivered to the sites and served to children Monday through Friday beginning June 22, 2015 – August 14, 2015 from 12:00 noon until 2:00 pm. Volunteers are needed to serve food, maintain record and clean up afterwards. The proposed sites (pending approval) are the Edneyville Community Center, located at 15 Ida Rogers Road in Edneyville (off of Hwy 64E), the Crosswalk located at the corner of 6th Ave and Buncombe Street in Hendersonville (operated by First Baptist Church) and King Creek Commons, behind Boyd Chevrolet on Spartanburg Highway.

Organizers are requesting volunteer helpers from our community to help serve meals and to provide books, activities and crafts for children to enjoy during the meal time. Volunteers will need to complete a simple training and will need to provide a Driver’s License for a background check. To volunteer, contact Amanda Stansbury at the Henderson County Public Schools Child Nutrition Program at (828) 891-6310 or by email at arstansbury@hcpsnc.org.

I’m planning to challenge my staff members to get involved this summer and hope you’ll join us. This is a great volunteer activity for work teams and groups of friends and families. For more information about the program you can contact Amanda Stansbury at Henderson County Public Schools; Matt Gruebmeyer, Director of Title 1 Services at (828) 697-4514 or Todd McCullogh, Pastor of Hope United Methodist Church at (828) 697-6846.

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