As challenging as the past year has been, one thing this food writer never ever worried about was going hungry. And it was far from an issue when I was growing up. If anything, my plate was always full and the parental directive was always to clean it. As in, "Finish it now. There are children starving in China."
While we never heard much about child hunger in America, sadly, it's always been with us. But now child hunger -- or, as it's euphemistically called, "food insecurity" -- is in the suburbs as well as the inner city and rural towns. And, none of it is acceptable.
The San Diego Food Bank launched its Food 4 Kids Backpack program in 2007 to provide food for chronically hungry elementary school students through the weekend. Every Friday, participating children receive a backpack filled with child-friendly foodstuff, such as peanut butter, pop-top canned goods, cereal, juice boxes, raisins, fruit cups, granola bars, shelf-stable milk, and macaroni and cheese.
They need this weekend bag because while they receive free or reduced cost meals in school, food may not be available to them on weekends or school holidays. Can you imagine having nothing to eat for two days?
To qualify, students must attend a school where at least 80 percent of the population receives free or reduced cost lunches, and receive a teacher referral. During the 2008-2009 school year, the program served just 200 children in eight schools throughout San Diego County. The need is so much greater now.
And, it's harder for the Food Bank and other organizations to help. As the economy has sagged, charitable donations have gone down while hunger has increased.
Those of us who love food and find pleasure in it are in a position to help keep kids from going hungry. Our local food bloggers and other members of the community are coming together for the next few weeks to raise funds for the San Diego Food Bank's Food 4 Kids Backpack Program. Starting now.
It doesn't take much. The program costs approximately $7 a week per child to fund. A donation of $250 will fund a full backpack for a child for the entire 36-week school year. Giving what you can afford will help ensure this program continues to keep young bellies full.
Need some incentive? We'll be hosting prizes to be awarded in a drawing at our live food and backpack drive at our San Diego Food Bank booth at the Little Italy Mercato on Saturday, Dec. 12. To see a full list of the prizes (and I'm seeing some fabulous contributions), visit the aliceqfoodie blog.
My contribution will be three cookbooks: Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois, The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond, and Ralph Brennan's New Orleans Seafood Cookbook. I also will be giving away a $25 gift card to the Ivy's Ultra Lounge and Wine Bar and a market tour with me at either Balboa International Market or 99 Ranch Market. The winner's choice.
So, here's what we need you to do:
- Donate and/or enlist friends and family to donate a plain medium-sized backpack (no logos, please; keep it simple and gender neutral; FYI, the kids like red). If you'd like to fill it, consider school supplies (pencils, paper, pencil sharpeners, markers, crayons), nutritious kid-friendly foods (fruit roll ups, juice boxes, pop-top foods like applesauce or fruit, ready-made mac and cheese, granola bars, and boxed items), useful items like toothbrush and kid toothpaste, and coloring books.
- Donate online at our firstgiving.com website.
- Spread the word via email, Facebook, Twitter, your own blog -- whatever.
- Then bring all your backpacks to the Little Italy Mercato at Date and India Sts. on Dec. 12, along with any non-perishable food you'd like to donate to the Food Bank. If you cannot make the drop off that day, contact me and we'll figure out a way to get your contribution to the Food Bank.
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