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Starving children: A problem closer to home than you think

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By Special to The Sun

AMBER FIELDS

Wash. Co. Extension Summer Intern

The media has burned images in our minds of starving children in developing countries on campaign advertisements aired daily on television. While those problems do unfortunately exist in developing countries across the globe, those innocent faces of starving children are more local than many individuals are aware of.
 It doesn’t take the title of being “homeless” for a household to have a starving child. Living in a food insecure home can occur when low income individuals are not able to provide enough food to feed a family, so those members, especially children, are left to go without proper nutritious meals for an uncertain period of time.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food insecurity is “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods.” In the state of Kentucky in 2010, an estimated 226,790 children, with about 540 of those children from Washington County, lived in food insecure homes according to Feeding America.
The Washington County 4-H Program, along with the help of the county schools, has acknowledged this problem in the community and has taken action to help those children who live in food insecure homes. Through a program called Food for Kids BackPack, individual bags are filled with “easy-to-prepare” meals which are sent home every weekend with a child who qualifies for this program. This bag of food guarantees that a child will have food to consume over the weekend when he or she is not able to eat a school meal to make up for the skipped meals at home.  
Each weekend, a bag is filled with food that does not require a laborious meal, but aassortment of easy to prepare food that the child can prepare without the supervision of an adult or older sibling. This program also provides confidentiality to those children who participate in the program by making the transfer of these donated goods from school to home very discreet by distributing the food to the kids either after school hours, or when a child can put the food in his or her book bag or purse.
This school year, the cost per child to participate in The Food for Kids BackPack Program will increase from $80 per child to $100 per child. That increase has made the funding for this program even more difficult to cover the costs to feed those children who qualify for this program. Depending on how much money is collected through donations this year will ultimately determine the amount of kids that this program will be able to serve.
As a child develops, it is important that they receive the proper nutrition for their development and overall wellbeing. Not getting enough balanced and nutritious meals can affect not only the overall health of the child, but also their cognitive skills. A famished child experiences more than an empty stomach, but that child will also experience the inability to excel in academics. Growing children need food to fuel their growing bodies and expanding brains.
There is a way that you can help to make sure that no child’s hunger continues to encumber their innocent lives. Monetary donations are accepted through the Feeding America website by designating your donation to Washington County.  Local citizens and businesses can also donate to the Food for Kids Backpack Program through a special account that is set up at the Springfield State Bank. If you are interested in donating food to sponsor families in your community, contact the Family Resource at Washington County Elementary School at (859)-335-5490, or North Washington Elementary School at (859)-375-0214.
Innocent children who live in food insecure homes depend on programs like Food for Kids BackPack to pick up where their parents may currently face a financial burden. If this community is not able to raise enough funding to support the amount of children that depend on this program, then some children will not be able to participate in this program. This consequence will lead to more than just an empty bag on a Friday afternoon, but also the scary probability of looking for something to eat in an empty pantry.
For more information about the Washington County Food for Kids Backpack Program, contact the Washington County Cooperative Extension Office at (859)-336-7741.