Islamic Relief USA Grantees Discuss the Importance of Fighting Hunger in Schools

No Kid Hungry

Officials from Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, which works to end childhood hunger by connecting eligible kids to federal nutrition programs, spoke at the March 14 forum of the Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) Public Affairs Education Series.

They expressed the importance of student access to school meals in order to foster improved concentration and performance toward studies. Hunger amongst students is a significant problem. In the United States, one in six children struggle with hunger.

“We feel that feeding hungry children is a moral imperative,” said Elliot Gaskins, managing director of development at Share Our Strength.

Programs that Deliver

The organization has set an ambitious goal to end childhood hunger by 2030. To help meet this goal, Islamic Relief USA awarded the organization a $100,000 grant to help implement healthful meal programs at schools that currently lack them or have limited offerings.

In Virginia alone, some 60,000 kids in need are now participating in school breakfast, thanks to the organization’s work. In Southwest Virginia, which is where the IRUSA grant helped fund the program, the campaign has seen strong success. 16 of the 18 targeted schools have implemented the Breakfast After the Bell program. According to studies, students who eat breakfast have higher test scores, increased attendance, and better attitudes about school.

One of the problems the organization has noticed is that traditional models which serve breakfast before the start of the school day can negatively impact student participation because of stigma or because it tends to take place too early. To prevent them from missing what many consider the most important meal of the day, the campaign supports schools in implementing Breakfast After the Bell models, which make breakfast a part of the school day.

The organization works directly with schools to implement the programs. More than 1,000 Virginia schools now have Breakfast After the Bell programs.

Share Our Strength

At the forum, Gaskins mentioned that Billy and Debbie Shore founded Share Our Strength in the mid 80’s as a response to the famine in Ethiopia.

In addition to addressing childhood hunger, Share Our Strength works on programs focusing on nutrition education, cooking healthy meals on a slim budget, and enabling people to donate to charities while dining at restaurants. Some fun events the organization has held include Chefs Cycle, a fundraising endurance cycling event (a 300 mile ride) featuring award-winning chefs and members of the culinary community.

Gaskins said that while some 12.3 million children are enrolled in school feeding programs, there are an estimated three million more children that still need to be enrolled. California has the most kids (355,869) that are eligible for free breakfast and free lunch programs, but are not currently enrolled. The next highest are Florida (256,154), New York (227,605), Texas (191,098), and Illinois (183,536).

The director said he hopes inroads can be made in those states and across the country, so No Kid Hungry can soon become a reality for all.

This post was submitted by Syed M. Hassan, public affairs specialist at IRUSA.

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