I recently shared my shock at discovering that one in six children, in my own state of Nebraska, are considered food insecure. Nationally, more than sixteen million American kids, (under the age of eighteen), are unable to consistently access adequate amounts of nutritious food necessary for a healthy life. Does that not blow your mind?!!?
We live in a small town (around 6,000 people). We would be hard-pressed to go downtown on the square or out to the local WalMart without running into people that we know — friends, neighbors, co-workers, people from church, our childrens’ friends, kids we work with in youth group, etc. We’re in contact with them, talk to them. If they were hungry, we’d see it — know it — wouldn’t we? I’m just imagining lining up all the kids we know and wrapping my mind around that statistic — every 6th child. I think about their parents. They’d tell us, right? We’d SEE it. We’d know. Wouldn’t we? Wouldn’t you?
Our community, (the entire county, really), does an excellent job in distributing food to those who have a temporary need for extra help. As the county seat, Seward is fortunate to be the home of one of the satellite offices of Blue Valley Community Action Center. I was fortunate to be able to meet the organization’s coordinator, when I stopped by to donate healthy snacks for the Champions for Kids Abbott Nutrition Pack a Snack Project. She told me that Blue Valley Action operates the food pantry, here, as well as through two churches in the community and three FoodNet centers throughout the county. They also oversee the WIC and Commodity food programs for Seward County. She felt that, as a community, we are generous and responsive, keeping the pantry shelves supplied and taking action when a call goes out for donations. I asked if what was provided was enough to meet the real need or if we were missing people who needed our help. While she didn’t have any statistics on hand, she was very encouraging about meeting growing needs in our depressed economy, but shared that there are always those who we just don’t know about and whose pride or circumstances prevents them from asking for help.
In the course of this project, I have learned of several families where the primary bread-winner has been without steady work for an extended period of time. In another instance, a high school-aged child works to provide income and often goes without eating themself, to be sure that younger siblings “get enough”. It’s heartbreaking, and it’s a reality right where we live; yet, you would likely never know it if you met one of them on the street. They would stop to smile and visit, as you pass, and then move on without sharing their plight. Early in our marriage, we faced a time where we had to admit we needed help and then swallow our pride to ask for and accept it. It is humbling and frustrating to have to ask others for the things you know you have a responsibility to provide yourself, but simply can’t. You fear what others will think of you and that people will think you are lazy or too uneducated to manage your finances. Those deflating feelings, no matter how unwarranted, often prevent families from asking for help and usher children into the category of food insecure. So, in a moment of courage and humility, if someone is brave enough to open the door of Blue Valley Community Action Center and ask for help at the food pantry, I want to be sure I’ve done what I can to help see the shelves are full and can provide what they need. This project has made me keenly aware that our family hasn’t done enough and that we need to plan to make regular contributions, there.
My family and I packed up a couple bags of healthy snacks for kids, as part of this service project. We knew the importance of keeping them healthy, but I also knew the importance, for the kids AND their parents to make them fun and appealing. The idea that those who need extra help for a time, should be “glad for what they get”, was a prejudice I faced during those difficult early times. People often felt that it was not appropriate to use the help we received to provide something that seemed “special” or was not the least expensive option, for our kids. Kids like to feel like they “fit in” and are just as worthy of surprises and treats, regardless of their economic situation and parents want to be able to provide those things. So, our goal was to share some snacks that provide great nutrition, but that kids would think are fun and delicious, too! We packed things like PediaSure which provides complete balanced nutrition for young kids, PediaSure SideKicks which provide nutrition support with 25 essential vitamins and minerals that help kids grow and stay healthy, Zone Perfect Nutrition Bars which provide a healthy balance of carbs, protein and fat in some delicious and appealing flavors that made me want a bite :), Fruit Snacks made from real fruit and shaped like popular Disney movie characters, Raisins, Raisels, applesauce cups, diced peaches cups and yogurt raisins. To see details about my shopping trip and the snacks we found for the project, you can check out my Google+ album.
What programs or organizations does your community have to help those who might be food insecure? How do you and your family get involved and help out? The Champions for Kids Simple Service projects, and specifically Abbott Nutrition’s Pack a Snack project is a fun and easy way to get started. I’ll bet your kids would have a blast planning and shopping for a donation along with you!
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:35-40
I was provided the opportunity to learn about and participate in Champions for Kids Simple Service Projects through this compensated shop, as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #AbbottCFK #CBias Views and opinions expressed are wholly my own.