Filling LITTLE BELLIES...Nourishing Little Bodies & Brains
It is unacceptable that 1 in 5 children under the age of 18 go to bed hungry every day in this country. The number jumps to 1 in 4 children under the age of 5. No parent should feel helpless and no child should go hungry.
Hunger is a Barrier to Education
A nourished student stands a far better chance of avoiding the "achievement gap" that all to often forms for children with barriers to learning (poverty and hunger are BIG barriers). Achievement gaps are often established before the third grade and have a direct impact on a student's long term success. It is unacceptable that hunger should rob a child from their right to learn and the life-long opportunities that can only be accessible through education. Poverty...hunger...education...achievement: fundamental concepts that are inexorably linked to a child's life-long success.
Little Bellies is Grow Our Kids' umbrella food-aid program focused on children who suffer from hunger. Children in our Little Bellies programs face dire need in the absence of school-provided breakfasts and lunches – all too often their only meals of the day. According to our teachers, these children return to school visibly affected at the end of their track-out breaks, taking days if not weeks to get back to normal. We know that a child who feels weak, sick, and sad from prolonged hunger can’t learn. Our hope is that when we take hunger out of the equation, these kiddos will THRIVE in the classroom and succeed in life.
"Tracking Out Hunger" - focused entirely on children who attend year-round schools. Each quarter, students are "tracked-out" for three to five week periods. Grow Our Kids provides substantial supplemental food - including fresh produce, healthy snacks, nutritious breakfast items, and wholesome meals - to these children and their families.
"Little Bellies Snack Pantries" - provides healthy snacks on-site for Tracking Out Hunger children. Snacks are needed for kiddos with early or late lunches to help them get through the day. Some children will save their snack and eat it at home because dinner is an uncertainty. Snacks also serve children who are homeless or are in situations where, due to transportation, may not get to school until after breakfast has been served
"I would hate to have to tell a kid going through so much that they have to wait until lunch for something to eat" - WCPSS Social Worker
"I cannot tell you enough how much this program is meaning to West Lake Elementary. I had two teachers almost cry today when I gave them their snacks. One said that she had been buying the snacks on her own, and it was just too much. She said that it seemed like there was more need this year than she has seen in the past years, and this was helping so much. Another said that she puts the snacks in her student's cubby on Monday each week so that there's no stigma attached to her getting them to him. On Monday he took all the snacks home. She replenished on Tuesday, and he did the same thing. When she asked him about it, he admitted that there is no food at home and he was trying to help his family. She went on to talk to the appropriate channels for him, and was really appreciative of the Grow Our Kids program for helping him."
- Christine Kraft, Little Bellies Snack Pantry Program Leader
Emergency Aid - our social worker partners come to us when there is a particular family in desperate need. Whether current, future, or new to Little Bellies, we're able to get food and any other necessities to these families as soon as the next day
"Garden and Grow" - funnels seasonal, farm fresh, locally grown produce from community gardens and farmers markets to our programs. Produce is expensive and largely unavailable in the "food desserts" so prevalent in low-income areas. We LOVE getting gorgeous, healthy fruits and veggies into little bellies and make an effort to educate families on how to cook produce they may be unfamiliar with
Little Bellies is currently providing food to over 400 kiddos throughout the school year.
North Carolina Schools with Active Programs
In the absence of formal Little Bellies programs, we also respond to special emergency requests made by year-rounds schools for families in need.