Nutrition Fairs Add to Growing Hunger Synergies for Mississippi

Two recent KNOW Hunger Nutrition Fairs conducted in Vicksburg and Jackson drew 40 local organizations and more than 800 participants. The events, part of the Urban League-Tyson Foods Hunger Project Mississippi, provided free food and health screenings, nutritious cooking and exercise demonstrations plus access to programs for the underserved.

A donation of 34,000 pounds of food kicked off the fairs. It was given to the Mississippi Food Network from the Urban League of Greater Jackson, Jackson State University and Tyson Foods.

There were a lot of great moments, and some of the highlights are available here. But it’s increasingly clear the most important gathering is ongoing.

There has been a proliferation of organizations and resources aimed at curbing hunger for Mississippi, which leads the nation in food insecurity. Several groups have been at it awhile, and here are a few of the lead entities engaged at present:

There are others, including a growing number of efforts by political leaders. Lasting success will likely require a coalition of public and private entities working together.

There will be at least two more opportunities this fall that can help lend traction. The Urban League-Tyson Foods Hunger Project will conduct a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Challenge on Nov. 13 in Jackson, and a day later The Mississippi Food Policy Council is holding a conference.

Contact those organizations for more information, and also take a minute to visit all of these groups and see where your own effort might fit in. There’s plenty of room at the table for those who want to make a real difference.

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Stereotypes

Sheri Duncan, a volunteer at the Pinelake Care Center, near Jackson, Miss., says her food pantry serves many elederly people in the area. Mississippi ranks in the top ten states for food insecurity for people 60 and older.

Geraldine is a grandmother. Like many retired people, she and her husband depend on their Social Security checks to get by each month. This can be challenging on its own, but Geraldine has another full-time job, one that doesn’t pay in dollars: caring for her four grandchildren. Geraldine drives an average car, looks neatly dressed, and is proud to share her life story of running a farm. What you wouldn’t guess is that she depends on local food pantry to keep everyone in her household fed. She may not be whom you picture when you think of someone who is food insecure, but she is not alone. Many elderly people are suffering with a bad economy and increased pressures to care for an extended family. Mississippi ranks in the top ten states for food insecurity for people 60 and older.

As part of the Mississippi Hunger Project Nutrition Fairs held yesterday in Vicksburg and today in Jackson, we are interviewing people to gain perspective and insight into hunger in our communities. Working with the National Urban League and the Mississippi Food Network, we are raising awareness of hunger in a state that, ironically, also has a high obesity rate. We have a *lot* of video stories to share, so please check back for updates. And if you are in the Jackson, Miss., area, come on by the Salvation Army Center on Beasley Rd., and learn about hunger stereotypes first hand.

Coins for Kids Blends Service, Learning

Aleta Greer's elementary school class in Alpine, Calif., started Coins for Kids.

Share Our Strength will debut a new curriculum for its Coins for Kids program in March that may “make change” in the way students learn about money.
Aleta Greer, an elementary school teacher with the Alpine (Calif.) School District near San Diego, created the program last winter. The idea was to mesh identifying coins with the community service requirement of California’s educational standards. Students brought in spare change to fill plastic tubs, and the money was charted weekly before eventually being donated to SOS’ No Kid Hungry program.
Some of Greer’s students summed up the program with this cute video.
It was only supposed to be a two-week, service-learning project, but the results kept adding up. Coins for Kids eventually grew into a fourth-month campaign that raised $1,522 and the eyebrows of SOS’ program leaders.
The initiative was so smart and successful that the hunger-relief organization included it as a fundraising idea on its youth-action Web site No Kid Hungry2.
Now the nonprofit has charged Greer with developing a formal curriculum that teachers across the nation may implement to make learning – and giving – fun.
“The kids just wanted to keep going,” Greer said. “They made and sold music makers, we had a school-wide fundraising contest between classes and they just really looked forward to graphing their progress on Fridays.
“We started by asking them if they’ve ever been hungry and what that feels like. They had a very strong response.”
Greer got inspired last year while watching “Larry King Live.” Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges was on the show advocating for No Kid Hungry. Greer loved the vision, but saw an opportunity to add the component of kids helping kids.
A 34-year veteran of education, Greer said although it’s hard to know what jobs there will be in 20 years certainly teaching students to think more globally will be important. Coins for Kids teaches a number of skills, she said, including how to be good critical thinkers and collaborators.
Several local businesses got on board as well.
Manana’s, a family restaurant in Alpine, hosted a day where about 25 percent of their proceeds were donated for the cause. The Mission Federal Credit Union also let Greer’s class count its 80 pounds of coins without the standard 10 percent fee.
“We have even bigger plans to involve more businesses this year,” Greer said. “We’re also going to have an ice cream social, a wear orange day and several other things. It’s a lot of fun to see the kids do something selfless and realize the intrinsic job of what it means to help someone else.”
There were a number of inspirational takeaways, Greer said, including a “thank you” video from SOS co-founder Billy Shore. He promised that the money would go to feed as many hungry children as possible. He also urged the children to stay involved in their community.
“In our video you see several students, some of whom are very shy,” Greer said. “There’s also one boy who stutters, but none of them hesitated to participate because it meant so much to them. We had several goals when we started, and No. 1 was helping hungry kids.”
To learn more about starting a Coins for Kids initiative at your school, visit the No Kid Hungry2 Web site and click through “Leaders Tackle Hunger” to the “Fundraise” hyperlink. Also look for the curriculum update in March.

 

Child Hunger Facts:
• More than 16 million kids in America struggle with hunger. (Source: USDA Household Food Security in the United States). That’s one in five kids or over 21% of all kids.
• 10.6 million kids who are eligible for free or reduced-price school breakfast do not get it. (Source: Food Research and Action Center, School Breakfast Scorecard)
• 19 million kids get a free or reduced-price school lunch on an average school day. (Source: Food Research and Action Center, School Breakfast Scorecard)
• Five out of six eligible kids do not get free summer meals. (Source: Food Research and Action Center, “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report”
• 40.3 million people in America got help through SNAP (food stamps) in 2010; half of them (20.1 million) were children. (Source: USDA Food and Nutrition Services)
• 15.5 million children in America live in poverty. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports).
Source: Share Our Strength

Teenage Role Model

Jackie Price

Jackie Price, left, has raised more than $15,000 for the Great American Bake Sale

Jackie Price plans to be a chef someday. For now, she’s just a hero.
A senior at Magruder High School in Rockville, Md., Price started her own Great American Bake Sale effort at the age of 13. Four years later, she’s raised nearly $15,000 and is a four-time nominee for Share Our Strength’s GABS Leadership Award.
If those efforts weren’t enough, Price is an online advocate for hunger relief via her blog www.forgoodnessbakes.webs.com. The site offers a variety of resources including a menu of treats that may be purchased to benefit SOS.
We met her at this year’s SOS Conference of Leaders in Baltimore and knew Price is truly a Tyson Foods Hunger All-Star.
She learned about Share Our Strength while watching a public service announcement on her favorite channel – The Food Network. Price said hunger advocacy was a natural progression since cooking is her calling and she was looking for outlets to volunteer.
The first year she scored a free booth at Rockville’s Hometown Holidays, a Memorial Day weekend celebration that features cultural and culinary fare. Price sold out on day one that first year racking up more than $800 in sales. By the second day’s end, she had sold out again and pushed her tally to more than $1,700.
“Over time we got smarter about how much to bake,” Price said. “I really got excited about the cause, and after I realized how much money we would really raise, I just knew this is what I wanted to do.”
Eventually she wrote Duncan Hines about helping sponsor her GABS efforts. The company came through donating frosting and cake mix and even some fund matching through a partnership with SOS.
Although the majority of Price’s fundraising is done through sugary treats, she said emphasizing healthy eating choices for kids is equally important. She writes about the latter at www.healthyteenfoodie.blogspot.com.

Jackie Price’s Tips for Having
A Successful Great American Bake Sale
Here are a few tips for high school students or others who might like to start their own Great American Bake Sale campaign:
1) Latch on to a festival or other community event. The increased foot-traffic will do wonders.
2) Use Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale resource page. There are posters and other materials that will give you more confidence in how to run your sale
3) Keep it simple by preparing traditional recipes. Chocolate chip cookies, for instance, sell faster
4) Have fun

Sweet Success

Michele Gorham's Team

Fred Gorham, back left, has his hand on Michele Gorham’s shoulder.

Michele Gorham got into hunger relief after seeing a Great American Bake Sale ad on the side of a Domino Sugar box. Three years later she’s a Tyson Foods’ Hunger All-Star, although her first foray into fundraising was bittersweet.
The owner of Cookie Central, a cookie and baked goods delivery service in North Andover, Mass., Gorham said it was actually her husband, Fred Gorham, who first got her thinking about hunger issues.
His auto-glass repair business is just across the Merrimack River near the Cor Unum Meal Center in Lawrence, Mass. Fred would come home talking about the troublesome number of school-age children he would see in line for food.
About the same time, Michele saw the Domino ad and the synergy her business could create addressing a local need. Participating in GABS, one of the five primary campaigns Share Our Strength uses to address hunger, just made sense.
The problem the first year was she and several other bakeries put all their good intentions into one basket.
“We had one huge single event with a magician, a band and barbecue,” Michele Gorham said. “But it rained, and no one came. We were really discouraged.”
Michele and her cohorts still raised $1,300 that first year. The second year they decided to stretch their effort out for a full quarter, combining a series of bake sales with online networking using GABS’ Team Pages. They learned to piggyback on larger city events to increase foot traffic, and it went so well they expanded again.
Cookie Central participated in a total 15 GABS events during 2011 including five online promos, seven bake sales, several other volunteer events and even a GABS golf tournament at Merrimack Valley Golf Club in Methuen, Mass.
After raising $3,500 in year two, this year’s effort topped $9,000.
“I was a single mom less than a decade ago, and I know what it’s like to not have any money and to struggle,” Gorham said. “It’s such an awful feeling, so embarrassing, difficult and stressful. Now I’m in a better position to help, and what I can offer may not be as much as others, but I can still do something.”
SOS, which notes 1 in 5 children in America are at risk of hunger, recently honored Gorham with its 2011 GABS Community Leadership Award at the nonprofit’s annual Conference of Leaders.
Cookie Central offers nationwide shipping including for its Cookies for a Cause line. Cookies for a Cause feature stamped No Kid Hungry cookies ($4 per box) and Share Our Strength cookie pops ($2) and 100 percent of the proceeds go toward the Great American Bake Sale.