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Ensuring Healthy Meals during the Summer Helps Kids Head Back to Class Ready to Learn

Children who live in the Franklin Vista Apartments in Anthony, N.M., didn’t have to walk far to receive a healthy breakfast and lunch this summer, thanks to Food Service Director Demetrious Giovas.  He made sure children there were able to gather under the covered porch of the apartment community center for a nutritious meal.  The school district set up tables each day to ensure the kids had access to healthy food while school was out of session.

For the first time, Gadsden ISD provided daily breakfasts and lunches to children at apartments through the of the . Food was prepared at the local elementary school, where it was distributed to 14 sites including Franklin Vista Apartments, as well as churches, other community-based facilities and schools.  Throughout the summer, sites sponsored by the school district provided an average of 2,000 lunches and 1,900 breakfasts each weekday.

Yes, We Have No Bananas

We left the cool warehouse with sticky shoes and smelling of spoiled bananas, but also with a warm feeling for having helped the in Dallas ensure healthy, fresh food for their clients. Hundreds of cases of bananas had been donated, but when food bank staff checked the produce it was too spoiled to be used.  However, the sturdy produce boxes could be salvaged for further use, so 32 USDA volunteers from the Southwest Regional Office and rolled up their sleeves to empty and then reassemble the boxes.  This was a great opportunity for us to work together with other USDA employees and see the food bank in operation first hand. The project was part of the January 12th USDA National Day of Service honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Making the Right Connections in New Mexico

The No Kid Hungry New Mexico Campaign, an initiative of the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger, is gaining partners and momentum.  The campaign is less than a year old, but already progress has been made on the 2011 goals: Increasing participation in the , , and , the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  It’s so important to connect eligible people with the federal nutrition safety net.  And that is exactly what and its partners are doing in New Mexico and across the nation to end childhood hunger.

Part of the No Kid Hungry New Mexico campaign centers on school breakfast, an area of special interest to me. I can see the potential to reach more children just by changing the way breakfast is offered to students. A healthy breakfast makes a big impact on a child’s well being – physically and mentally.  That translates to better attentiveness, performance and behavior in school, too.   This method also eliminates the stigma for low-income children of coming to school early for a free breakfast in the cafeteria. And many children simply can’t get to school before the first bell.

Hunger: A Broken Street Light

Like a broken street light, childhood hunger impacts the well-being of the community and will only be fixed when the local community recognizes it, takes an interest, and decides to address it. When those who care come together, pool their talents, and take advantage of available resources, things start to happen. Things get fixed.

The city of Dallas is getting serious about ending childhood hunger. Just a month after the October kick-off of the No Kid Hungry Texas campaign, local leaders came together for a hunger summit in Dallas in November. The diverse line-up of speakers was inspiring! There were leaders from Congress, all levels of government, faith-based organizations, food banks, non-profit organizations and schools. Every speaker was passionate and convincing about the need and ability to end childhood hunger.

Key Partnerships Help Fewer Kids Go Hungry in Arkansas

I was privileged to be part of a recent celebration in Little Rock, Arkansas. Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe hosted a press conference with and the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance to announce the achievements of the first year of their state-wide campaign to end childhood hunger.

Last October when the initiative was launched, Arkansas had the highest rate of childhood hunger in the nation. The governor was appalled and decided to do something about it. The Arkansas No Kid Hungry campaign kicked off with the main strategy of increasing participation in existing federal nutrition assistance programs. Their first-year goal was to increase participation in SNAP, the , by five percent, and to increase participation in the by 10 percent.

Clinic on Wheels Reaches Communities Once Isolated from WIC Clinics

More than 112,000 Rio Grande Valley moms, infants and children depend on the nutritional benefits provided by WIC - the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program . The four counties that make up the Valley (Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy) have done a good job of identifying and serving nutritionally at-risk households using innovative outreach methods. They have caught the attention of USDA Director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Max Finberg and USDA FNS Southwest Regional Administrator Bill Ludwig, who toured Hidalgo County’s main WIC clinic on April 11.

Share Our Strength Kicks Off No Kid Hungry in New Orleans

I had the honor of participating in the kick-off of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign in New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 12.  I say it was an honor because of the importance of the project and the dedication and sincerity of the partners who have come together to make it happen.

Michelle Obama Praises Schools in Louisiana for Taking the HealthierUS School Challenge

I just took part in an exciting event at Brock Elementary School in Slidell, Louisiana. The school proudly hosted a visit by First Lady Michelle Obama on September 8, when she spoke about her initiative and the importance of a healthy lifestyle for kids. As you can imagine, the school administration, food service staff and the students were all thrilled to have the First Lady at their school. This school was chosen because of the exemplary job they have done in providing healthy meals and physical activity for their students.

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