Barrow County schools are working to make sure their students do not go hungry during the holidays. Feeding Barrow, a program with Barrow County schools, will be able to provide 300 students who are food insecure with kid-friendly food to help keep them fed over Thanksgiving.
What Is The Local Need?
According to Shannon Derrick, a social worker with the Barrow County School System, 54 percent of Barrow County students are on free and reduced lunch.
Currently, just over 300 kids receive weekend and holiday food bags through Feeding Barrow. Social workers in the schools identify kids who are in need of the program. Derrick says they look for students who are stealing or hoarding food and are consistently reporting being hungry. Another way that Derrick says they have identified students in need is parents asking the school for help.
Parents will let us know, they know the school is a safe place to ask for help,” says Derrick.
Feeding Barrow will provide students served by the program with double bags of food during holidays like fall break, Thanksgiving and winter break. Derrick says the main concern is how the students do during summer vacation. Barrow County is considered to be a “food desert,” meaning many students do not have access to a regular grocery store. Two Barrow County high schools have a program during the summer allowing for any Barrow County resident 18 and older to come and get free breakfast or lunch. Eventually Derrick hopes to offer a summer program to food-insecure students.
What Is The National Issue?
In the U.S., 13 million, or one in six children, come from food-insecure homes, according to feedingamerica.org. An average of 17.5 percent of children are food insecure; Georgia is above the national average with 20.9 percent food insecurity.
Many food insecure families must make compromises to be able to eat. Feedingamerica.org reported that in 2014, 66 percent of people who were food insecure had to choose between food and paying for medical care, and 57 percent had to choose between housing and food. In order to stretch their budget, 79 percent had to eat unhealthy, inexpensive food.
How Does Hunger Affect Students?
Food insecurity has been linked with decreased academic performance, social skills and developmental milestones. “Inadequate nutrition can permanently alter children’s brain architecture and stunt their intellectual capacity, affecting children’s learning, social interaction and productivity,” according to FeedingAmerica.org.
How Can People Help?
Derrick explained that at this time of year, food banks are filled with donations; however, in non-holiday months, there is a lack of food.
The best thing people could do is make a financial donation to a local pantry or make a financial donation to the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia,” says Derrick.
Food banks are able to buy food for pennies on the dollar, and with financial contributions, they can provide a more consistent food supply to the food insecure.
Donations can be made on the Foodbank of Northeast Georgia website or send to Feeding Barrow at:
Feeding Barrow—Barrow County
Barrow County School System
179 W. Athens St.
Winder, GA 30680
Katie Anderson is a senior majoring in journalism at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
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