“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” according to the well-known adage, oft repeated by annoyed moms everywhere. Typically, the object of their irritation is an obstinate child refusing to finish his or her cereal, or drink his or her juice. But some parents experience an even more dire frustration on a regular basis: despite the relative wealth of our nation, there are millions of people, including 21.8% of Indiana’s children, who go hungry every day. For families who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to provide complete and nutritious meals for their children, the worry ceases to be a child’s willingness to eat something, and becomes the necessity of finding alternative sources of healthy free or reduced-cost food.
Here in Fort Wayne, over 90,000 individuals each year depend on the efforts of the Community Harvest Food Bank (communityharvest.org) and their partner organizations as a stopgap, short-term, or long-term solution to their dietary needs. Junior League of Fort Wayne has long been a contributor to the mission of CHFB – in the past year alone JLFW has coordinated a Super Saturday / Done-in-a-Day volunteer event to help distribute food to the food bank’s patrons, and conducted two successful non-perishable food collection drives. JLFW also assisted with getting the word out recently when CHFB was in the running for funding through Wal-Mart; after a hard-fought contest on Facebook, CHFB came in at #16 out of 128 food banks nationally, and was awarded $60,000 for their programs related to providing food for local school-age children.
This important link between nutrition and school is not new. The maxim that opened this post reflects the long-acknowledged correlation between satisfying the bare minimum needs of a child and their performance in school, a connection that has been confirmed in scientific studies and continually proven through anecdotal accounts from families across the region, state, and nation. At our most recent General Membership Meeting, JLFW collected healthy, non-perishable or long-shelf-life breakfast options for the school children of Fort Wayne and the surrounding Northeast Indiana area, including cereals, oatmeal, fruit cups, and shelf-stable beverages.
While our support is longstanding, it is also especially relevant in light of our new focus on elementary school readiness for young children. According to the national hunger action program called No Kid Hungry (nokidhungry.org):
“Research demonstrates the importance of providing breakfast to children and youth. Children who eat a good breakfast tend to perform better in school, have better attendance, and exhibit fewer behavior problems. In addition, children who eat a good breakfast develop healthy eating habits, visit the school nurse less frequently, and are less likely to be obese. Despite the benefits of breakfast, for a variety of reasons, many kids aren’t able to eat a healthy breakfast at home in the morning.”
Consequently, making certain that each child in our area has access to reliable, nutritious food is something that JLFW believes to be integral to ensuring not just the basic health and wellbeing of our community’s children, but fundamental to creating an educational atmosphere where children can thrive.