City Character – Made to Help
Story by Megan Whitehead | Oct 27, 2016
MOFACT teams up with Share Our Strength to end childhood hunger.
Twenty percent of kids in the United States do not get the food they need. That’s nearly fifteen million hungry children.
No Kid Hungry, a campaign through Share Our Strength, works with government and business leaders to eradicate this problem. The group aims to increase the availability of and participation in school breakfast and after-school and summer meals for children in need. This campaign began in 2010, after a study was conducted to find the most prevalent sources of childhood hunger: either no breakfast or non-nutritional breakfasts and the unavailability of food outside of the school year.
The program also partners with restaurants such as Ruby Tuesday, Arby’s, and Captain D’s Seafood, who donate proceeds to No Kid Hungry. You can also personally donate to the cause at their website, nokidhungry.org.
Missouri has now joined the No Kid Hungry cause thanks to Governor Jay Nixon; Duke Storen, senior director of research, advocacy, and partnership development at Share Our Strength; Jonathan Barry, director of No Kid Hungry Missouri; and Bill Dent, executive director of Missouri Family and Community Trust, or MOFACT.
MOFACT, headquartered on High Street in Jefferson City, works with twenty community partners, including local county governments, to identify and help solve issues identified by those communities. Naturally, they jumped at the opportunity to end childhood hunger in our state.
“In our work, we have always been attuned to those who are less fortunate, who are in dire need, who have a lot of issues in the community,” says Bill Dent. “So we are always trying to respond to those people, those issues in the community. In our world, we have been in this space of food, of feeding kids and ensuring that, for a long time. Not in a direct or focused way, but more with local needs, wherever they may pop up in a community around Missouri . . . Now, we finally have a focused initiative where we can best utilize our resources to take on this campaign with the goal of eradicating hunger.”
MOFACT has a board of private and public members who understand the hunger problem from different perspectives: locally, legislatively, financially, and more. And thanks to MOFACT’s 20 community partners throughout Missouri, the distribution network for a program like No Kid Hungry is already available.
“What convinced me to join No Kid Hungry and Share Our Strength was the effort that has gone into this mission,” says Jonathan Barry. “This is data-driven and tested with proven models throughout the country. The structure is already there. We are just connecting the dots to make it work in Missouri. The whole idea makes sense and leads to better health and academic outcomes in kids.”
How It Will Work in Missouri
“There are three lines of effort to the approach of eradicating childhood hunger,” says Barry. “One is increasing the availability of school breakfast by supporting and encouraging schools to implement ‘breakfast after the bell’ models [where students have different options to eat breakfast after the school day has already begun] and working with schools and communities to remove the stigma associated with eating breakfast at school. The second is to increase the availability of after-school snacks and meals. The third is increasing the overall availability of summer meals.”
Dent says the built-in structure for distribution is a huge advantage to implementing No Kid Hungry in Missouri.
“Part of the brilliance of No Kid Hungry is that we are not asking people to do a whole bunch of new things or create new programs,” says Dent. “We are really trying to work within the current structure that the federal government asks school districts to work in, which is the reimbursement model for feeding kids. Working within that structure makes it a lot easier than trying to develop an entirely new program. The impact should be great without straining limited resources.”
While No Kid Hungry is primarily concerned with children in need, the benefits of increasing children’s access to nutritious meals are felt throughout the community. According to a study published by consulting firm Deloitte, kids who eat school breakfast are 20 percent more likely to graduate from high school.
In 2012, Bowerman Elementary in Springfield made the switch to a “breakfast after the bell” model. Many teachers were hesitant at first, but, after only a few weeks, the benefits of breakfast after the bell programs were clearly seen.
The Missouri Department of Social Services posted a video articulating these benefits in Springfield. (You can watch it yourself at dss.mo.gov/NoKidHungryMO.) In the video, Katie Dunn, of Sherwood Elementary, says, “What I am noticing is that a lot of the kiddos are coming in on time, if not early, so that way they have access to the breakfast that they know is waiting for them in their classroom, which helps with our attendance. Some of the kids who may not be excited to come to school seem to want to get up and come here to make sure that they get what they need before the day starts.”
“The goal for us is to meet our initial targets within three years,” Barry says. “This is not a long-term effort. This is a very targeted, intensive effort to solve this problem in Missouri.”
Dent adds, “It is a proven strategy.”
Click here to find out how to support No Kid Hungry yourself!