Students can't thrive if they're going hungry. This nonprofit has a genius solution.

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 … that brings 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.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."