Schools helping to relieve area hunger

Child hunger

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – One in four kids in the tri-county area does not know where their next meal is coming from, according to Second Harvest Food Bank.

Sometimes the food kids get in school is their only meal of the day. And it’s not just one meal a day the schools are making for kids because some even send students home with food.

But hunger is not happening only here in the Valley. Millions of adults and children struggle with hunger every day in the United States.

On Thursday, cinnamon apples were on the menu for elementary students in Youngstown City Schools. Food service employees pack 2,400 lunches every day.

“All of our kids get a free breakfast and a free lunch. We were able to do that because of a new program that was put out there by the government,” Youngstown City Schools Food Service Chief Sue Paris said.

The district provides breakfast for up to 70 percent of students. It has to meet USDA standards. Cooks in the Youngstown schools are now using whole grain flour.

“We feel that maybe this might be the only meal they get during the day, or the two meals they get with breakfast and lunch. There might not be a meal for them at home,” Paris said. “We’re probably feeding about 60 to 70, sometimes 80 percent of our kids, breakfast in the morning. We are one of the best in the state of Ohio with percentages of feeding kids breakfast.”

The face of hunger in the Valley is changing. It doesn’t care about geographic lines, which is something Second Harvest Food Bank sees everyday.

Last year, Second Harvest distributed over 9 million pounds of food. This year their goal is to beat that record.

“Fifty-three percent of kids qualify for free and reduced lunch in our schools,” Second Harvest Executive Director Mike Iberis said.

In Warren schools, 65 percent of students get free meals. In Liberty, half of the student population is eligible and in Springfield Township, 40 percent of students get free or reduced priced lunches.

“We know that many parents have told us that their breakfast and lunch are the student’s main meal for the day and they don’t get a lot when they get home,” Springfield Elementary principal Tom Yazvac said. “Some of our students ask to take some of our cereal home with them to give to their siblings when they get home because their younger siblings might not have had enough to eat throughout the day.”

For schools, it is not just about feeding a student’s brain. It is about making sure they have food in their stomach so they can think. It is something they take seriously.

“Us feeding them, we feed their brain I believe. And it’s important for us to be there and take care of our kids,” Paris said.

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