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Kids Fund can help our children succeed

Hunger remains a serious issue in Washington County, impacting our friends and neighbors, including children. Even as the economy improves, we continue to see families struggle with food insecurity. Oregon Food Bank’s most-recent survey of emergency food box recipients found that chronic hunger forces families to make difficult choices.

For example, 36 percent of families with children who were surveyed reported having to cut the size of their children’s meals because there was not enough money for food.

The ramifications of childhood hunger are serious. Hunger negatively impacts a child’s academic performance, cognitive development, growth, physical and psychological health. Without intervention, these impacts stay with children throughout their lives. Yet, household food insecurity can be identified and addressed with resources such as public food assistance programs and charitable food efforts. These interventions help prevent developmental problems in children and increase the chances that they will grow to be productive and successful adults.

Oregon Food Bank is committed to addressing childhood hunger through tested, effective programs. To that end, Oregon Food Bank partners with local non-profit organizations to distribute food to families in public schools. Currently, Washington County has four school pantries, including McKinney Elementary, Echo Shaw Elementary, Reedville Elementary and Greenway Elementary. The school pantries provide a three- to five-day supply of food and include a nutritious mix of fruits and vegetables, hearty grains, meats and other foundations to a healthy diet.

All school pantries are open a minimum of twice a month, all year long, to ensure children and families have a consistent source of food. In addition to regular food distributions, school pantries also act as a site for skill building activities such as cooking classes and recipe demonstrations and provide referrals to other assistance programs.

Furthermore, school pantries often help families become involved in the school. Parents and caregivers who participate in school pantries develop meaningful relationships with school staff, leading to more positive educational outcomes for the child. Many of the school pantry volunteers are parents who participate in the pantry program.

Local support from Washington County Kids Fund would help many Washington County families and children. Programs like our school pantry in collaboration with after-school and mentoring programs provides a robust and strong network in schools for our children to succeed. School pantries can lead families to participate in important education and enrichment programs because they often serve as the initial starting point for greater involvement in school activities. As a result, increased investments in education, child abuse prevention, early childhood and anti-hunger programs like Washington County Kids Fund leads to healthy and productive families and communities.

Anneliese Koehler is a public policy advocate at the Oregon Food Bank.

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