Food insecurity is a barrier to kids’ success
By PHIL OSBORNE
Danville Schools Education Foundation
I had a new grand baby recently — my fourth. This one is in Jackson, Wyoming. Other than bragging rights from a doting grandfather, what does that have to do with anything related to Danville Schools?
Indulge me for a minute.
Right after she was born, a friend of my daughter’s opened a 529 college savings account for Mary Florence — or Cece as we call her. Before she had even gone home from the hospital, someone was thinking about her future and higher education.
As I mentioned to some folks last week, it’s an unfortunate fact that 529 means little to many families other than times of day — 5:29 in the morning as kids start getting coaxed from bed to get ready for another school day, and 5:29 in the evening when those same children start to wonder when and if they will have dinner, or what it may be.
Many of us are in positions to provide for our loved ones with college planning. Unfortunately, others are faced with daily challenges, like food insecurity as just mentioned. Food insecurity is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.
According to the Kentucky Association of Food Banks (2016 data), more than 17 percent of all Kentuckians face food insecurity on a routine basis; that’s more than 700,000 people, including 222,000 children. In Boyle County, 15 percent of the population wrestles with food insecurity, which represents more than 4,300 people. If those same percentages, hold, that means more than 1,300 children in this community live in food insecure environments.
Several groups locally, statewide and nationally work on food insecurity issues, including churches, food banks, Grace Café locally, and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, through Commissioner Ryan Quarles’ hunger initiative. You can support the work of those organizations through direct contributions or as a volunteer.
We’re fast approaching the height of gardening season, so the zucchini, cucumber and tomato bounty you have could be a great help to local schools through a farm-to-school initiative, which is also coordinated through the ag commissioner’s office.
You can also make direct financial contributions to the Danville Schools Education Foundation, which can be earmarked for the system’s food services office for summer feeding programs and other outreach efforts to offer nutritious meals for our students.
Food insecurity is a reality in this community and, like medical and dental care, mental health efforts, family support systems and early childhood development impact a child’s ability to learn, grow and thrive. We all have to do our part at every opportunity.
Do me a favor. At 5:29 this afternoon, while you’re working on your own dinner, ask yourself the question, “I wonder what the kids down the street are having for supper?” Or the more important question, “What can I do to help with the issue of food insecurity in Danville and Boyle County?”
Phil Osborne is executive director of the Danville Schools Education Foundation. Email him with questions about the foundation at email@example.com.