Monday, September 12, 2016

Day 4: #SchoolBreakfastChallenge

No breakfast today
Halfway through my journey. No breakfast–another morning of watching the clock. It's Sunday, so no visit to the school nurse today. 

1 in 5 kids in America don’t get enough nutritious food. Ever wonder what some kids eat on the weekends? There is nothing more depressing than meeting a kid who doesn’t like weekends, or snow days...who loathes school vacation, who misses school, all because they are worried about not getting enough food to eat. 

While it is not optimal, in the short term some food banks and pantries operate a backpack program in partnership with local schools. While I greatly appreciate supporters of these programsthey help kids get through a difficult timeit is a bit of an indictment of the U.S. economic system that we have to send kids home for the weekend with backpacks full of food. A sustainable path to nutritious meals it is not. I much prefer to back federal nutrition programs that provide institutional support to childrenschool breakfast, school lunch, after-school snack or even communal suppers.

I’m not much of a “foodie” but, when you skip a meal, you tend to think about food all the time. I have noticed that on days when I miss breakfast I grab an “empty calorie,” sugar-laden treat late in the afternoon. Everyone should have a snack once in a while if they enjoy it, but sugary snacks are not a substitute for a healthy meal.  

One of the great ironies we face in the fight against hunger is that many of the same communities struggling with hunger are also experiencing significantly higher rates of childhood obesity. While it may seem counter-intuitive, those sweet treats quickly satisfy a sugar low so, instead of a piece of fruit or simple breakfast sandwich at Dunkin' Donuts to keep my blood sugar steady, I reach for a piece of candy.

(For the record, that’s my second endorsement of Dunkin' Donutsthey should help us fund the Hartford breakfast initiative, don't you think?)

Then there's the cost...soda and snacks are often cheaper and more accessible. Society emphasizes “eating healthy, nutritious food,” but if I showed you a glass of milk, a glass of water, a glass of cranberry juice and a glass of sodathe cheapest item, because of U.S. farm subsidy policy, is the soda. It is clearly not the healthiest option, but parents and kids face these choices every day, trying to stretch their dollars. I recently enjoyed a visit with some local Connecticut farmers who very generously support Foodshare. I am all for collaborating with American farmerswhy aren’t we supporting the growing of the foods that we know are healthy?  

James Arena-DeRosa, President & CEO

Join the conversation by commenting below or sharing your thoughts on social media. Don't forget to tag @Foodshare and use the hashtag #SchoolBreakfastChallenge.

You can also follow my fellow CEO at the Connecticut Food Bank, Bernie Beaudreau, as he shares his SNAP Challenge experience this week.

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