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When you were in school, did you ever forget your lunch at home?

Since you'd planned on eating food from home, you probably didn't bring cash to buy a lunch, so you were stuck without anything to eat. Maybe you watched your classmates dig into their sandwiches, the smell of peanut butter and jelly making your mouth water. When your friends asked where your food was, you shrugged it off and told them you weren't hungry. But by the time you returned from the cafeteria, you were probably shifting in your seat, hoping nobody would hear your belly growling.

Cut to math class where you were likely struggling to pay attention long enough to solve even the simplest equation, too distracted by the emptiness in your stomach to concentrate. Maybe your teacher even caught you daydreaming, and you were too embarrassed to admit that you'd been thinking about what flavor granola bar you'd tear into once you got home.


Image via iStock.

But hopefully, you did actually get to eat that granola bar once you got home. Sadly, for many kids, that's not always the case.

In fact, for 1 in 6 children across the United States, hunger isn't just a matter of forgetting lunch when they leave for school.

These kids are dealing with food insecurity, which means they don't have reliable access to food.

In San Diego County alone, more than 400,000 people are considered food insecure, and of those people, 160,000 are children.

When that many children are affected, it really shows up in the classroom.

Feeding San Diego's Vince Hall visits Bayside Elementary School. Image via Feeding San Diego.

"When children are hungry, they can't perform in school,"explains Vince Hall, CEO of the hunger relief organization Feeding San Diego. "They're not thinking about arithmetic, about literacy, about geography. They're thinking about being hungry."

While you might think fixing food insecurity is as simple as making school lunches affordable, addressing the problem is actually much more complicated than that.

The reality is that lunch isn't the only meal that struggling families have to worry about, and the cost of food isn't their only obstacle. When nutritious food isn't readily available, it also takes time and transportation costs to track it down. For struggling families, overcoming those obstacles can feel impossible, which usually leads to someone going hungry.

"You have mothers that are skipping their own meals to put food in the mouths of their children," Hall says.

That's why Hall and his team at Feeding San Diego are tackling all sides of the problem.

Image via Feeding San Diego.

Through Feeding San Diego's Feeding Kids initiative, they make nutritious food accessible by partnering with sites such as elementary schools, churches, and community centers and distributing fresh food to the families there.

"When parents are coming to take care of their kids' academic needs, they can also take care of their families' nutritional needs," Hall explains. In other words, rather than spending money to get to a place with healthy food, families don't have to go out of their way — the food is right at the school. And best of all, it's free.

Plus, since they bring the food directly to the schools, Feeding San Diego doesn't have to spend resources on its own storage facilities, which cuts down on costs and allows it to spend more directly on the services offered to families in need.

For example, at Bayside Elementary School — located in Imperial Beach, one of the poorest areas in San Diego County — Feeding San Diego opened a school pantry in December 2017 that essentially gave kids and their families their own version of a farmers market.

Image via Feeding San Diego.

Boxes and crates full of food were set up on the school's front lawn farmers-market-style, complete with reusable tote bags. Each family received about 20-25 pounds of food, including organic pasta, canned goods, and, of course, fresh produce straight from local farms.

Thanks to Feeding San Diego, families are already experiencing some promising results.

Feeding San Diego's surveys report that, among families participating in pantry sites, 88% report healthier eating behaviors such as eating more fruits and vegetables and preparing more food at home. Plus, 52% of parents reported improvements in grades and attendance, which should come as no surprise since having food to eat boosts mental health, concentration, and cognitive development.

Image via Feeding San Diego.

A school pantry can also change interactions between parents and administrators, Hall says, and help parents feel like valued members of the community. One principal told Hall that he's grateful to have moments with parents that aren't just about discipline or problems with students.

"There's smiles, there's handshakes, there's hugs," he says. "There's an incredible bonding that's going on between the families and the school staff … thatbrings a much more human connection."

Hall says he's even witnessed tears from parents who are relieved about being able to feed their kids nutritious food without breaking the bank.

Image via Feeding San Diego.

All families deserve access to nutritious food. With creative ideas like food pantries, we can make that possible.

For the low-income families who need fresh food resources the most, it's touching to have an organization like Feeding San Diego recognize the obstacles in front of them, and give them the chance at the healthy living they deserve.

And with greater awareness of what it takes to keep families fed, hopefully we'll be seeing more endeavors like this popping up all over the country in the years to come.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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