To help demonstrate the impact service and service members have, ServiceNation’s ServceNext Initiative has launched ‘Stories of Service,’ a summer-long series that will capture first-person accounts from service members currently deployed across the country.
In the series’ second post, Shayla Price talks about what she has learned about hunger in America while serving as a summer AmeriCorps VISTA member. If you missed it, be sure to check out Shayla’s first post about why she wanted to spend her summer serving.
As a summer AmeriCorps VISTA, I am on the front lines of a very important issue in America—childhood hunger. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), over 16 million children lived in food insecure households in 2010. With 1 in 5 children not receiving enough nutritious food on a regular basis, we must work together to end childhood hunger.
During my service, I have learned that hunger impairs children’s health significantly. Research shows that kids experiencing hunger are more inclined to get headaches, stomachaches, and colds. As they grow older, the children may even encounter harmful health consequences from obesity.
Moreover, hunger can hinder a child’s ability to learn and perform academically. A kid will not be able to concentrate and perform well in school.
The summer months can be a difficult time. Though more than 21 million American kids get free or reduced-price school lunch, only 3 million of those kids get a free summer meal. That’s why I believe my commitment to serve is necessary to help improve kids’ access to healthy food.
Feeding America is helping lead the way to meet the nutritional needs of children during the summer. With assistance from food banks across the country, Summer Food Programs provide nutritious meals and snacks to food insecure youth. The programs are typically reimbursed through the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
SFSP is designed to fill that nutrition gap, making sure children receive the healthy meals they need. To find meals in your community, call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY. You will receive information on where kids can find summer sites in your area.
By serving with VISTA, I am directly helping with Kids Café, one of the summer food programs. This initiative provides free meals and snacks to low-income children through a variety of community locations such as Boys and Girls Clubs, churches, and public schools. Some Kids Cafés programs even offer educational, recreational, and social activities, providing a safe place.
In Kansas City, the food bank Harvesters is partnering with agencies to offer 53 Kids Cafés across 26 counties in Missouri and Kansas. Children receive a free, wholesome meal and nutrition education at various sites, like community centers and low-income housing complexes.
As a VISTA member at Harvesters, I perform site monitoring and compliance inspections for Kids Cafés. For example, I verify that participating sites have adequate storage and refrigeration to keep meals, appropriate space to serve meals, and staff to administer the food. The VISTA team also monitors the sites for proper sanitation and recordkeeping.
I enjoy visiting Kids Cafés! The children are always eager to learn the day’s lunch menu. My site inspections play a vital role in guaranteeing that kids receive a healthy, free meal. With my passion and hard work, my AmeriCorps service is ensuring that hunger is not part of a kid’s summer vacation plans. Through VISTA, I have learned how one person can contribute to bringing individuals and communities out of poverty.
Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign understands the importance of connecting kids to meals. The organization is traveling across the country to increase participation in the summer meals program, ensuring that no child goes hungry when school is out.
Let’s end childhood hunger together! Give money. Give time. Give food. Find out how you can help your community. Contact your local food bank by visiting feedingamerica.org.
R. Price is an attorney and an advocate for ending childhood hunger. She has promoted community service as a governor-appointed commissioner for Volunteer Louisiana. Prior to government service, Price worked as a marketing director for ProgressiveU.org, a social welfare organization that sought to give high school and college students a voice.
While in high school, she earned more than $100,000 in college scholarships. She authored the book titled “The Scholarship Search: A Guide to Winning Free Money for College and More.” She has been featured in several publications, including “Better Homes & Gardens,” “Seventeen,” and “Black Enterprise.” Price was also named one of EBONY magazine’s 2009 Young Leaders and received the first-ever Emerging Greatness Award.