By Amanda McCarthy
Summer is here. The sun is shining, kids are enjoying time off from school, and families are taking vacations. Fresh produce is being harvested everyday and many Yolo County residents are enjoying locally-grown fruits and vegetables. Summer has a lot to offer and yet one thing is certain, hunger does not take a vacation.
According to Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap,” a comprehensive study released this month, there are almost 11,000 children in Yolo County who are food insecure. Simply put, these kids may not know where their next meal is coming from. The number of students who are eligible for the free and reduced meal program at local schools is even higher, close to 13,000.
Without regular access to breakfast and lunch through school programs, there is an increase in childhood hunger during summer months and the Food Bank of Yolo County has expanded its summer distribution programs to help address this need.
Research has shown that nutrition is vitally important for childhood development. Malnutrition, especially in the first few years of life, can adversely affect a child’s future physical and mental health. In fact, studies have shown that kids who do not have regular access to nutritious food find it harder to concentrate, are at higher risk for mental health concerns including mood swings and anxiety, and may experience chronic health conditions such as anemia or asthma.
There are a few easy ways to ensure that children in your life stay healthy. Help kids develop good eating habits by doing the following:
* Set a good example by eating healthy foods with your child
* Offer a variety of healthy foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables
* Follow a meal and snack schedule
* Eat meals together as a family
* Avoid watching television during mealtime
* Try new foods
* Make food fun
FBYC currently distributes about 3 million pounds of food annually. Through direct distribution programs and our network of non-profit partner agencies, the food bank serves approximately 25,000 people per month. Most of these programs are available to families in need of food assistance but two of our programs target children specifically. Through produce initiatives including the Kid’s Farmers Market and Children’s Harvest, FBYC is serving 1,200 children per month. With generous support from First Five Yolo, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Walmart, and PG&E, we are able to deliver fresh produce each week to children and families throughout Yolo County. Through these programs we are able to distribute fruits and vegetables that are grown locally to those who need them most.
For information about:
1) The Food Bank of Yolo County – www.foodbankyc.org
2) Food Insecurity – www.feedingamerica.org or www.cfpa.net
3) Healthy Habits for Kids – www.choosemyplate.gov
— Amanda McCarthy is the director of programs at the Food Bank of Yolo County