Who Feeds Hungry Kids in Summer?

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It’s a good question. According to the USDA, more than 22 million schoolchildren are eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the year through the National School Lunch Program, but during the summer, only 1 in 6 of those kids participate in the Summer Food Service Program. (The federal government is seeking to address that shortfall with the Seamless Summer Option, which offers local school districts a streamlined approach to feeding hungry children.)

Of course, the question of hungry kids in summer is part of a larger problem – hunger in American homes generally. A widely quoted statistic, from the Food Research & Action Center, a national advocacy group working to improve public policies and public-private partnerships to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the U.S., says that 1 in 6 families suffer from food insecurity.

Many nonprofits and advocacy groups are working to address that imbalance, in a wide range of ways.

Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign connects kids in need with nutritious food and teaches their families how to cook healthy, affordable meals.

Feed the Children connects donors, experts, partners, leaders and communities to attack the hunger problem from all angles.

Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, with a powerful and efficient network of 200 food banks across the country.

Food and nutrition have long been issues of concerns for many Junior Leagues.

In fact, action by the Junior League of Brooklyn in successfully petitioning the New York City Board of Education led to free lunches in schools there, a program that later became the model for the National School Lunch Program.

Many other Leagues are still creating innovative ways to deal with hunger insecurity and children in their communities.

And then there’s AJLI’s Junior Leagues’ Kids in the Kitchen program, now in its 10th year, and adopted by more than 200 Junior Leagues in four countries.

By the way, if you’re looking for some healthy and nutritious kid snacks and meals from the KITK cookbook, try these!


*This article was originally published in The Civic Lede, an official publication of The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc., and has been reprinted with permission.  The Civic Lede spotlights notable developments in philanthropy, not-for-profits, women’s interests, voluntarism and leadership, and offers commentary on the issues on which The Junior League has been active for many years.

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Fresh Express: Educating the community on healthy habits at Touch-A-Truck

Fresh Express 5It’s one thing to practice healthy habits, but it’s another to be able to educate the community on what healthy means. The Junior League of Phoenix Fresh Express committee is able to experience this liberating feeling on a routine basis. The latest of their education tour was at the annual Touch-A-Truck event held at Paradise Valley Mall on Nov. 7.

Throughout the day families made fresh produce purchases while the children stopped by the Fresh Express education table. Children’s activities included crafting a colorful stamped-clad rainbow made with fruits and vegetables. Mushrooms, pepper, grapes, apple, cherries, and a banana are just a few of the stamps that could have been found at the table. As the children built their rainbows the Phoenix League Volunteers explained the importance of eating the “colors of the rainbow.”

TAT Fresh Express 2“Today I ate a rainbow.” Perhaps you have heard this phrase used as more and more health experts tell us we should “eat the rainbow,” and no, they don’t mean eat more candy.  Volunteers taught the children that this means that we should eat a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables to get all the nutrients we need for optimal health. Here is a very basic run down on each color group and how it helps our bodies:

Red: Very heart healthy and gives strength support to our joints!

Orange: A great source of Vitamin C. The orange group helps keep our eyes healthy!

Yellow: This group is good for our skin and helps our digestive system!

Green: Helps our entire body and strengthens our immune systems which mean fewer colds!

Purple: Purple/blue foods are excellent for our brains! They help us with our memory and also help keep some cancers away! (Source: todayiatearainbow.com)

TAT Fresh Expres 3“Many parts of the Valley struggle with eating healthily and access to good nutrition – and not by choice. The volunteers of the Junior League of Phoenix Fresh Express program have a great opportunity to get on the right side of this battle by educating the community to think differently about the way they eat and by providing easy access to healthy produce,” says Cassie Cooper, Fresh Express volunteer. “Being able to directly impact the community in a healthy, positive way makes me proud to be involved in this program,” continued Cooper.

The Fresh Express bus and activity station remained busy throughout the day with record sales of $400 in the short 4 hours they were in business – that’s equivalent to $100 of produce sales every hour. To place some perspective on this, one apple costs .30 cents. Amazing!

About Fresh Express: A mobile produce market bringing fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables and providing community health resources to less fortune areas of the Valley.

Learn more and view the Fresh Express schedule at www.discoverytriangle.org/fresh-express.

Fresh Express Mobile Produce Bus

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This season is off to a great start in the JLP‘s second year with the mobile produce bus, Fresh Express! Last year we did great work around volunteering with the bus while educating customers on the importance of incorporating produce in to their diets. This year the focus has increased to include wellness based presentations to community centers that the bus frequents. The presentations are a new challenge for our committee and it is a great program because not only does it help the community, but it also develops Junior League members by establishing a curriculum and presenting in front of an audience.

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Fresh Express at the Phoenix Food Day Apple Crunch in downtown Phoenix, with a focus on eating nutritious food and sourcing local produce.

We are also creating a program to incorporate nutritional information on the bus full time. Last year we faced a challenge on reaching all of Fresh Express’s customers because we were only able to offer so many hours of volunteers. This year we want to increase our impact and are focusing on educating more people in the community on the importance of a nutritional diet filled with produce. If you want to support Fresh Express by purchasing produce in the Phoenix and Tempe areas, please visit their website for an updated schedule:  http://www.discoverytriangle.org/fresh-express/

by, Michelle Moore, Fresh Express Chair

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Fresh Express Kicks Off In The Phoenix Community

fresh expressFall weather is upon us, which means the opportunity for fall fruits and vegetable varieties from Fresh Express mobile market! We encourage all of our readers to shop the bus and check out what’s in season! You can find where they are by the schedule they post daily on their Facebook page and on their website.  Your efforts have contributed towards the $50,000+ in produce sales, which is what covers the cost of their operations and helps keep the program moving forward for those in Phoenix’s Food Desert.

Fresh Express Committee with members of their assigned Provisional group work together to stuff co-branded grocery bags for the upcoming November Touch-A-Truck event.

We kicked off Junior League of Phoenix volunteer opportunities at the Phoenix Food Day Festival on Thursday, October 22. Volunteers participated in setting the city record for the synchronized apple CRUNCH at noon with Mayor Stanton along with handing out our apple-themed activity sheets.  The Junior League of Phoenix apple-themed activity sheets included nutritional information and a fun recipe. Our volunteers assisted with the bus tasks at hand and ensured the mobile market’s nutritional education literature section was always stocked. It was a great way for Fresh Express and the Junior League of Phoenix to get out at an event together to promote what our partnership means: providing a reliable source of nutritional food to our Phoenix Community.

Spotlight: Food Insecurity

timthumba.phpIt’s a crisis that goes by many different names…pervasive hunger…food access…food deprivation…and food poverty. Maybe the best way to describe it, however, is food insecurity.

Food insecurity is a term defined by the United States Department of Agriculture that indicates that the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, or the ability to acquire such food, is limited or uncertain for a household. The USDA also reports on “very low food security,” which occurs when one or more people in the household were hungry over the course of the year because they couldn’t afford enough food.

Many are starting to talk about food insecurity as a symptom of a wider, systemic problem, however. This is how the Fair Food Network, a U.S.-focused advocacy group dedicated to building a more just and sustainable food system, describes the issue: “We are faced with a broken food system that limits access to healthy, fresh, and sustainably grown food to many low-income families and under-served communities. We also see the brokenness of this system through the prevalence of diet-related illnesses and the steady increase of obesity in these communities, and the number of people who now rely on government food assistance.”photo-1418669112725-fb499fb61127

In low-income neighborhoods, which often lack full-service grocery stores or farmers’ markets, residents are limited to shopping in smaller convenience stores where the availability of healthy foods is limited, at best. Studies have shown that even when available, healthy foods are more expensive there, and households with limited food budgets are often forced to purchase cheaper, energy-dense foods in an effort to maximize their calories per dollar. Less-expensive foods not only provide lower nutritional quality but are directly linked to obesity.

These are themes that resonate with members of the many Junior Leagues focused on addressing both childhood obesity and the presence of food deserts in their communities. A useful resource for Leagues and other community groups focused on food insecurity is the Healthy Food Access Portal, funded by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation.

*This article was originally published in connected, an official publication of The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc., and has been reprinted with permission.