-Ron Lapitan, Community Outreach Coordinator
The other day Center for Health and Human Rights met with two experts into the issue of hunger amongst children in Fairfax County, to brainstorm next steps for our own efforts to address the issue.
One interesting problem they described was the lack of an emergency plan for students who receive food to take home home over the weekends, because they otherwise wouldn’t eat outside of school. One of the experts volunteers with Food for Others, which donates the meals students can take home for the weekends to the schools, which the school gives them on Fridays. Last week, she delivered the packs to the schools on Wednesday, then the schools shut down because of the snow. When she went to deliver this week’s packs, she found all the packs she had brought last week still sitting on the counter. The students had went the whole weekend without food because there was no backup plan to deliver them.
Another issue is food shaming. A student cannot be denied lunch when they, even if they don’t have money. But if this is the case, they can be given a plain sandwich PB&J instead of the full meal; something that communicates, “You didn’t have money today.”
Another issue is immigration fears. Money students who are eligible for SNAP (food stamps) or the free-lunch program in schools do not enroll, because their parents are not legal citizens like them and fear that their information will be used to track them. So instead the students go hungry during the school day. Other families choose not to enroll because of pride.
Hard to know how to change such a complicated problem.
(Image: map of the “15 Islands of Disadvantage” in NoVA, and CHHR’s school groups. #7 is where a CHHR team delivers milk, eggs, and cereal to families identified as food insecure.)