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Back to School Means Additional Need for Food for Kids

children standing in front of a brick building
Students at Vaughn Elementary School enjoy snacks from their Totes of Hope™ bags. // Photo by Caitlyn Barnett

The start of the school year can and should be an exciting time for kids. A fresh start, new classmates, discovering and developing previously unknown talents and skills: In the best circumstances, the options abound.

But alongside these positive possibilities exists a reality for many school-age kids that is seldom discussed: In 2021 in the U.S., more than 13 million children are projected to face food insecurity. In Colorado, that means one in seven kids. A lack of access to sufficient nutritious food poses severe issues for individuals of all ages, and for children, it carries an even higher price.

Several studies have laid out the negative effects of food insecurity on children — on their physical and mental health, social skills, and performance in school. One such study, which was published in The Journal of Nutrition and followed some 21,000 children between kindergarten and third grade, concluded that “food insecurity was predictive of poor developmental trajectories in children [and] serves as an important marker for identifying children who fare worse in terms of subsequent development.” Additionally, the study’s findings included “strong empirical evidence that food insecurity is also linked to specific developmental consequences for children, both nutritional and non-nutritional.”

masked child holding a piece of watermelon
Studies show that children who lack access to sufficient nutritious food suffer physically, mentally, and socially. // Photo by Caitlyn Barnett

Amplifying the already unacceptable reality of any child anywhere struggling with hunger is the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Hopes of a “normal” 2021-2022 school year have receded into the background due to the Delta variant and the ineligibility of individuals under the age of 12 to get vaccinated. Before the pandemic, food insecurity in the U.S. was the lowest it had been since the Great Recession, according to Feeding America. Now, more people — more children — not only have to bear the stress and worry of COVID-19’s effect on their life and the lives of those they love, but also where they’re going to get their next meal. That’s where Food Bank of the Rockies’ food for kids’ programs, including ready-to-eat meals, snacks, and Totes of Hope™, come in.

“Last year, we provided kids with upwards of 70,775 meals and snacks each month during our busiest times through the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and our donor-supported signature program, Totes of Hope™,” said Tami Anderson, Food for Kids manager at Food Bank of the Rockies. “Every month during the school year, we distribute upwards of 20,000 Totes of Hope™ for kids to take home with them over the weekend; each bag contains enough food for about seven meals, including the ingredients and a recipe to make dinner for a family of four. Additionally, through CACFP and SFSP we make individually sealed, nutritious meals for kids in our commercial kitchen and distribute them at our mobile pantries and Boys & Girls Clubs of America sites.”

2 children sharing a snack
To help meet the nutritional needs of children in our community, Food Bank of the Rockies distributes upwards of 70,775 meals and snacks every month during the school year. // Photo by Caitlyn Barnett

In addition to our Food for Kids’ programs, Food Bank of the Rockies also distributes food to more than 800 Hunger Relief Partners and 70+ mobile pantries across Colorado and Wyoming year-round to ensure caregivers have the food they need to nourish themselves and the children in their care.

Of the 90 schools and Boys & Girls Clubs of America sites Food Bank of the Rockies partnered with during the 2020-2021 school year, several have already reached out requesting more food due to higher numbers and levels of need. Whether caused by the ongoing pandemic or other factors, whether a foreshadowing into the year ahead or a temporary circumstance, Food Bank of the Rockies will be there, ensuring the kids in our communities have access to nutritious food no matter what.

We are able to do that thanks to your help. Every dollar allows us to provide four meals; every volunteer shift helps us prepare and deliver more food to more individuals. If you’re already a donor or volunteer, thank you! If you are considering donating or volunteering, we sincerely hope you’ll choose to join the Food Bank family and help us in our fight to end hunger.

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