The St. Louis Area Foodbank is fortunate to have Kelly Hall, a registered dietitian, on staff. For National Nutrition Month, Kelly shares how the Foodbank is improving nutrition for the families that we serve.
Foods to Encourage
In 2013, the St. Louis Area Foodbank adopted a model designed to increase the amount of nutritious food we provide to our clients. The Foods to Encourage model has a goal that 66% of the food brought into the Foodbank is fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low/non-fat dairy. We recognize that hunger is a health issue and we want our clients to have nutritious foods available to them in order to fight against diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Through a grant from No Kid Hungry Illinois, the Foodbank has been able to expand the School Breakfast Program to several school districts in our 12 Illinois counties. Schools have been able to bring breakfast out of the cafeteria and directly to the students with programs like Grab n’ Go and Breakfast in the Classroom. Increased participation in the School Breakfast leads to improved test scores, better attendance, fewer visits to the nurse, and overall improved behavior with less classroom disruptions. Providing students with a healthy meal to start their day is a great way to provide not only the nutrients they need to succeed in school, but also provides their bodies with the nutrients they need to grow and development into healthy adults.
This summer, the Foodbank is beginning a pilot Summer Food Service Program to help reach food insecure children in our community. Most of these children rely on the free or reduced price meals they receive during the school year; during the summer months parents don’t always have the means to provide these meals. The pilot program will target areas in both Missouri and Illinois that are underserved during the summer and will bring meals to hundreds of children that need them. Currently only 17% of children in Missouri and Illinois that are eligible for free summer meals receive them.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR)
On September 30 2015, the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act is set to expire. This Act provides funding for child nutrition programs including the National School Breakfast & Lunch Programs, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program and WIC. All of these programs are designed to ensure that low-income families have access to nutritious food. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization will ensure that all of these programs stay funded for the next five years and that children continue to benefit from them with improved educational achievement, economic security, good nutrition and health status. The Foodbank continues to advocate for the Reauthorization to help support our efforts in providing healthy food to low-income families in our area.