Pumpkins and persimmons: food security for Yolo County youths

By Amanda McCarthy

As temperatures get cooler and families are planning for holidays, Yolo Food Bank is seeing record numbers of participants in our programs, many of whom are children. The need for food is ongoing, especially for families trying to make ends meet. According to Feeding America’s Map The Meal Gap, 24.4 percent of children in Yolo County are food-insecure.

Not only is nutrition vital to the health and well-being of children, it is imperative for their emotional development. Children who are hungry experience higher rates of illness and obesity, impaired ability to concentrate, and increased behavioral problems. Knowing this, Yolo Food Bank has created a variety of programs to specifically address hunger among low-income children.

YFB’s Kids Farmers Market program visits four elementary schools in Woodland, Winters, Esparto and West Sacramento every week. This interactive program provides kids with nutrition education, recipes, samples, and 10 pounds of free produce to take home. Last week, kids in Winters had the opportunity to use pretend money to shop for fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables including cauliflower, onions, potatoes, persimmons, and oranges. In addition, they got to pick out their very own Yolo County pumpkin just in time for Halloween.

Durst Organic Growers and Food Bank Farmers generously donated nearly 400 pumpkins to make this happen. They were available in many sizes and kids happily selected the one that they wanted to take home, many of them opting for those that were too large to carry. The weekly market provides a place for kids to learn about health, be social, and, perhaps most importantly, make their own choices about what to eat.

Another program, Children’s Harvest, provides families with children ages 5 and younger with 10 pounds of fresh produce twice per month. With support from First 5 Yolo, food is made available to families in rural and urban areas through Family Resource Centers. There are seven sites throughout the region that collectively serve 600 families per month. Parents share that this program provides a healthy supplement to their diets while kids tell us that they love trying new things. Recently, a four year-old shared that she was pleased with the cherry tomatoes that her family got because they looked exactly like her favorite fruit, grapes!

Many of the agencies that Yolo Food Bank partners with also serve youth directly. We are pleased to work with Yolo County Children’s Alliance, Yolo County YMCA, Woodland Youth Services, Community Housing Opportunities Corporation, Yolo County Housing, and more to provide resources to local families.

While there are many kids struggling with hunger in our community, not that many acknowledge it. Kids are resilient, resourceful, and open to trying new things, even kale! Through our direct distribution programs and network of partner agencies, Yolo Food Bank provides healthy, nutritious food for youth and their families. We are committed to alleviating hunger and malnutrition in Yolo County, beginning from infancy.

Be part of the solution to ending childhood hunger in our community. Visit www.yolofoodbank.org to learn more.

— Amanda McCarthy is the director of programs at the Yolo Food Bank

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