I will ride 160 miles on my bike, across the state of Florida, to help fight childhood hunger. Don’t get me wrong, I love riding my bike and this doesn’t sound crazy or daunting. It sounds like fun! But until I began learning about childhood hunger, I didn’t realize how important participating in the Pan-Florida Challenge For Hungry Kids really is.
Turns out 1 in 4 children in this state go hungry. That is CRAZY, we are a rich and developed nation after all! And don’t worry. This is not about politics. Children are innocent and do not choose what income bracket to be born to, who their parents are, nor what their parents do. This is not about if government assistance helps or promotes poverty, so please just read on. This is important.
Without adequate food, children don’t develop to their full potential. Not only is their physiological growth impaired, but so is their learning as a hungry child cannot pay attention in school. You don’t believe me?
I’ve seen it first hand. I met three sisters during the Camillus House Children’s Run Club. They had just entered transitional housing after a stint at a homeless shelter. It was during summer vacation and the girls did not attend school. One day the middle girl was tired and not running well. I asked her what she had for breakfast and she said fruit gummies. It’s what they had.
Now, the reason why that was her breakfast may not just be that they didn’t have resources to get food but this girl was hungry.
Food insecurity refers to USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Food insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity may reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.
Many households have income and do not qualify for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) however still face food insecurity. For example, in Palm Beach county 31% of the food insecure children do not qualify based on income for SNAP and other federal nutrition programs, and must rely on emergency food assistance programs and charity to help them meet their basic need.
One source of food assistance reach children through the schools where they are given free breakfast and lunch. But what happens over the weekend when children don’t go to school? Many times children go hungry. They have 68 hours of inadequate nutrition which result not just in physical impairment but also on “lost Mondays” where children can’t learn because they are hungry.
This is where you and I come in. Generous sponsors have come in to cover the costs associated with the ride itself so that EVERY DOLLAR I, along with the other PFC riders, raise is used to purchase PFC Power Packs. These consist of 13 meal offerings ready to be dropped into students’ backpacks on Friday afternoon at school or aftercare. PFC Power Packs are filled with nutritious food in 7 child-ready meal offerings stuffed into oversized zip lock bag. Meals of Hope, a partner nonprofit, adds an additional 6-serving family meal bag so the rest of the family can also receive nutritional support. Both are packed, shipped and labeled to feed hungry students every weekend of the school year 2015-2016.
PFC Power Packs are distributed to hungry students qualified by partner agencies and school staff every Friday afternoon in Title I schools, VPKs, and after-school programs in high poverty areas, and food insecure populations. One thing that impacted me was the behavior school staff observe to determine if a child is hungry and qualifies for the PFC Power Pack. This is the heartbreaking list:
- Rushing food lines due to extreme hunger
- Appearing hungry on Monday mornings
- Quickly eating all food served and asking for more
- Asking when the next meal or snack will be served
- Regularly asking teacher for food
- Saving/hoarding/stealing food to take home for self or siblings
- Lingering around for, or asking for, seconds
- Commenting about not having enough food at home
- Asking classmates for food they do not want
As I ride my bicycle across the state, I will pass through five counties home to an estimated 114,000 food insecure children. 28% of ALL CHILDREN in these five counties are food insecure. So as I have fun riding my bicycle, I will be thinking of those kids who don’t know where their next meal will come from.
You can be involved in many ways.
- Donate to my ride! I have a goal of $1,500 all of which will go to purchase PFC Power Packs at a cost of approximately $5 each.
- Join me that weekend and ride 160 miles and do your own fundraising campaign with your circle of friends.
- Now you know there is an issue, and you can look for ways to help the food banks near you.
- If you are in the area, you can also volunteer for the ride or distributing the PFC Power Packs. Contact Maura@PanFloridaChallenge.org for more information.
Thank you so much for learning about childhood hunger; I hope you will be able to help. I’ll do the pedaling, PFC will do the purchase and distribution, will you pay the $5 cost?
 Source: Feeding America (www.feedingamerica.org)
 Source: http://map.feedingamerica.org/county/2013/overall/florida/county/palm-beach
 Source: Feeding America, 2012 Map the Meal Gap study