It’s Friday Afternoon. Know Where Your Kids Are?

 I originally put this post up last February.  As we near the end of the school year, it’s important to consider just how important school lunch is to the nutritional needs of some kids.  And what is going to happen in a few weeks when summer vacation begins.


By Ed Nicholson                                                                           photo by eyeliam–Creative Commons

A colleague of mine came into the office last year with a compelling story.  Her eight year-old grandson frequently spent time with her on weekends. Often he was accompanied by a good friend: a normal looking kid; clean, well-dressed, well-mannered.. The friend had a voracious appetite, eating just about everything in his path.  When my colleague made a lighthearted comment about how much he could pack away, he said, “We don’t eat much at my house on the weekend.”   Turns out, life was pretty tough for this kid.  His single dad was making some choices that didn’t exactly put nutrition at the top of the priority list for his family.

Unfortunately, this kind of story is way too common in our land of plenty.

It’s Friday afternoon here in the Ozarks.  Along about the time this posts, school kids around the country will be eating lunch.  For some of them, it will be the last good meal they’ll have until Monday.  If  I’m reading the charts correctly, over 15 million kids participate in the free school lunch program.  For a lot of these kids, the school lunch program is their lifeline; there just aren’t three squares on the weekends and holidays. 

We know there are lots of stories about these kids out there.  If  you have one  and would like to tell it here, leave us a comment, and we’ll get with you.  You can guest post, or just let us tell it.

Meanwhile, there are lots of ways you can help.  Go to the Share Our Strength or Feeding America web sites.  Or go visit your local food bank. 

No kid should dread the weekend.

What are you eating this weekend?



 By Ed Nicholson

Those who follow this blog know that we’ve been devoting Fridays to reminding people of the fact that there are millions of children across the country whose primary source of nutrition is the school lunch program.  For many of these kids the gap between lunch Friday and lunch Monday is a long 72 hours with no assurance of a meal.

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah Owen, CEO of Community Cooperative Ministries, Inc. in Fort Myers Florida, guest posted here about this sad fact.  Now, CCMI, has challenged their stakeholders to join them in discovering just what it might be like to live for a weekend with no food.  Beginning at noon today, those who take the NoFood4You Challenge won’t be eating until noon Monday. 

The campaign will raise awareness and funds for CCMI’s School Backpack Program.  Follow Sarah and CCMI’s Judy Chiappini as they document their experience via Twitter throughout the weekend.  Thanks to their efforts, there will be some kids in the Fort Meyers area who won’t be going hungry for that 72 hours.


The Backpack Program: Food for Children in our Community who Need it Most

It’s Friday, when we devote this space to reminding people of the fact that many kids who depend on school lunch programs are at risk of hunger over the weekend.     Sue Brockway, Tyson Community Relations, has long worked closely with River Bend Food Bank in Moline, Illinois.  She submits this entry today on the food bank’s backpack program.

Research has shown that children who do not receive adequate nourishment during their developmental years experience impaired mental and physical development.  The sad reality is that there are many children who rely on resources such as free and reduced priced meals for their primary source of food and nutrition during the school year.  But what about weekends when these programs are not available to these at-risk children? In 2007 River Bend Foodbank piloted the Backpack Program to help stop the debilitating effects of childhood hunger and meet the needs of children over the weekend when there may be little or in some cases, no food to eat. 
Today the Backpack Program at River Bend Foodbank has grown to provide more than 800 children with nourishing food to take home for the weekend.  Foodpacks are discreetly distributed to the children on the last day before the weekend or holiday vacation throughout the school year. The food is nutritious, child friendly and easily consumed.
This program is so effective because of our partnership with 14 schools in the Quad Cities (Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois). School staff identifies the students who are most in need and distribute the food each week.  Each year we ask the teachers of the children who receive the food to complete a survey to help us determine how well the program is working. 
Here is a sampling of the comments on the surveys:

  • One little boy told me very week that there was not food in the house. Since the Backpack Program, he has stopped saying that.
  • I have a little boy in my class who would always say, ‘Is it Friday yet? Do I get to take home my food?
  • The kids eat a lot of junk. This gives them something better to eat.
  • One of my students said he wished he could get the backpack food every day.
  • When Sarah got her food she told me: ‘I’m going to my aunt’s this weekend and I’m going to take my food with me!

River Bend Foodbank is an accredited member of Feeding America.  The Foodbank distributes nearly 5 million pounds of food to 22 counties on an annual basis.

By the way, if you know Sue Brockway, send her a note of congratulations. She’s the most tireless and selfless hunger fighter we have at Tyson Foods.  We’re all danged proud of her!


It’s Friday–Pledge for the kids going hungry this weekend

We’ve been focusing this space during the last few Fridays on talking about kids who depend on school lunch programs for their primary nutrition. Many of these children are in dire risk of going hungry from Friday lunch until Monday. 

This week, we’ve been recruited to be part of an exciting effort, focused on South by Southwest, the Pledge to End Hunger, which benefits our great friends Share Our Strength, as well as four Feeding America food banks.

One of those food banks, with which we’ve had the distinct honor of working closely in the past year is the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. There’s an excellent little piece about one of their childhood feeding programs, Kids Cafe, at the Pledge to End Hunger site.


Each Friday, hundreds of thousands of kids across America eat their last good meal until Monday.  But thanks to programs like these at the CAFB, those numbers are being reduced.

Go sign the Pledge to End Hunger. It’s a great cause. And while you’re online, go follow CAFBers, David Davenport, Lisa Goddard, Kerri Qunell and all these guys here on Twitter.




If your PTA asks…What should we spend our money on next year? Answer: Food




photo by PinkMoose–Creative Commons/flickr

On Friday’s we’ve been devoting this space to childhood hunger as a reminder that there are kids whose primary nutritional needs are served by the school lunch program, who are often hungry on the the weekends.

This week’s message comes from Michael Clark, COO of our invaluable communications partner, Mitchell Communications Group.


Walt Kelly, cartoonist famed for creating the legendary American comic strip character “Pogo” is known for writing the phrase, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  To that point, I’m reminded of a story from last year of how systems, processes and protocols that we have in place live up to this oddly accurate “pogopossum” philosophy.

True story: (names withheld for obvious reasons)
A child in our school system was going through the lunch line and picked out his meal, he arrives at the end of the line and according to district policy the cashier states. “I’m sorry, you don’t have enough money in your account,” sadly takes the tray away from the child and tosses the food into the trashcan and hands over a sack lunch; a white bread sandwich of processed cheese and a small fruit juice, and some kids might get lucky and get chips too.

What on earth?

Okay, I get that there are some folks that forget to fund their lunch accounts, really I get it, but to toss out decent food in exchange for a less balanced option is pretty unsettling to me.  Not to mention wasteful.  You see, we’re watching food become a far different story in society today. In more cases than not, we’re transitioning from luxury to livelihood and that’s because hunger is reaching people it has never touched before. Okay, so what can we do about this?

I’d like to think we can look into and get beyond the systems and policies we have in place.  Look at how they run on the frontline and think of ways that make the most common sense, despite wherever our kids stand in line or how much or little they have in their account.

We also need to look at what our children are being fed. Here’s an example of a breakfast menu.  French toast and syrup or cinnamon roll, fruit cup and chocolate milk.  It’s no wonder our children are having difficulty learning when I see them drinking sugar fortified milk, syrup soaked fruit and simple carbs for breakfast.  I can hear the teachers now, “Okay kids, sit down and stop climbing the walls and learn…it’s impossible.” 

So if your PTO/PTA or local businesses asks what we should focus on this year, here’s your answer.  Focus on nutritious, balanced food programs and backpack programs that will help our kids learn, live better and stay healthy.

Please share ideas on what you do or what you think we can do for our kids?


Go here and sign the Pledge to End Hunger, and Tyson will donate 35 pounds of food to a Feeding America food bank.