June 16, 2018 — There are some issues that all Americans agree upon. One of these is the belief that children should not be hungry. The United States is the world’s second most productive agricultural economy, behind only China. We produce enough food domestically that there is no logical reason for any child in America to go to bed hungry. However, No Kid Hungry, a national children’s advocacy group, has determined through accumulated research that 22 million students rely on free or reduced-cost lunches and 12 million rely on free breakfasts, most provided by public schools.
In addition, three out of four public school teachers say they have students that regularly come to school hungry.
Siuslaw School District Superintendent Andy Grzeskowiak sees this need on a daily basis.
“With the level of poverty in our community, there is a great amount of food insecurity for many children. Over 60 percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch during the school year — and that need does not go away during the summer,” he said. “Many of their parents are working during the day, so continuing meal services during the summer is a natural fit to meet the demand.”
The impact of hunger on a student’s life can be uncomfortable and distracting in the short term, but also significantly detrimental over the long term.
A growing child’s ability to understand and integrate new concepts has been directly linked to proper nutritional support. In short, it’s hard to think when you are hungry and it’s hard to do well in school if you can’t think.
No Kid Hungry has found that 4 million youth rely on free meals during the summer when school meals are not available.
This is one reason for Siuslaw School District’s summer meal program, which has been de-signed to serve all youth in the area, from one year old to 18, free of charge.
Grzeskowiak said that any young person that needs something to eat can receive a free meal, or two a day, even when school is not in session.
“Unlike the school sessions, there is no qualifying criteria. All you have to do is be a kid in the community under the age of 18,” Grzeskowiak said. “It doesn’t matter to the district whether they are visiting relatives for the summer, home schoolers, preschoolers or get rolled up in a stroller.
“So, I guess there are really two criteria; be a kid and need a meal.”
The meal locations and the distribution times for this year are slightly different than in year’s past.
Breakfast and lunch service will be Monday through Friday beginning June 19 and continuing through Aug. 17, with a day off for the Fourth of July.
Breakfast is served between 8 and 8:30 a.m. at Siuslaw elementary and high schools on Oak Street.
Lunch is served at the elementary school from 11:30 to 11:55 a.m., then delivered to Miller Park between noon and 12:15 p.m. The delivery van then goes to the Siuslaw Public Library, 1460 Ninth St., from 12:20 to 12:35 p.m. The lunch distribution ends up at Siuslaw High School from 12:40 to 12:55 p.m.
There are a number of other programs underway in Florence that are also concerned with the issue of childhood hunger.
Grzeskowiak is glad for the broader attention being paid to the problem.
“Summer seems to one of the forgotten times for donations to many service organizations. If anyone in the community is interested in donating or helping one of our partner organizations, I would encourage them to contact Food Backpack For Kids, the Boys & Girls Club of Western Lane County or Florence Food Share,” he said. “They can always use a few more donations or helping hands, no matter the time of the year. The need is always present.”
For more information, contact the Siuslaw School District Office at 541-997-2651 or visit siuslaw.k12.or.us.