A student who staff discovered was hoarding food from school to take home to her family is no longer doing so, thanks to the Queen Anne Helpline’s Weekend Food for Kids.

Students are “dancing into my office” to pick up their weekly food bags, according to one school staff member.

Parents reportedly are overjoyed and extremely thankful to have their children receiving weekend food, finding that it relieves a lot of stress and helps stretch limited resources further.

The Weekend Food for Kids program — which began in November 2013 in collaboration with the Ballard Food Bank and the Queen Anne Presbyterian Church — has been enormously successful in its first five months of operation. The program has grown rapidly, enabling us to expand from providing 48 weekend meals to eight students at one school to providing 270 weekend meals to 45 students at four schools (Coe and John Hay elementary schools, McClure Middle School and Catharine Blaine K-8 School). 

We are currently working with Queen Anne Elementary School to implement the program there as well and recently collaborated with three other agencies providing weekend food programs in other parts of Seattle. 

We also received a donor-initiated grant from The Seattle Foundation, allowing us to serve even more students. 

To date, we have distributed 732 bags of food to local students in food-insecure households.

In our neighborhood schools, there are many students who receive free meals at school during the week but don’t have enough to eat on the weekends. Our Weekend Food for Kids program provides weekend boost packs to schools each Friday, who then discreetly distribute them to students who school staff have identified as at risk for food insecurity. Each pack contains six simple, kid-friendly meals and two snacks. 

One in six Washington households was food insecure at some point during 2012, the latest year for which data is available. This means that these households were uncertain of having or were unable to acquire enough food to consistently meet the daily needs of all members of their households. 

Numerous studies have linked childhood food insecurity to problems with health, development and school performance. Hungry children cannot concentrate, pay attention or perform well in school. Students experiencing hunger are more likely to have emotional and behavioral issues and to be tardy and absent. 

Hunger’s effect on student performance puts low-income children at a disadvantage. The nutrition provided by weekend food programs helps to reduce this disparity among low-income students, leveling the playing field for these children to learn and succeed in school. No child should be hungry because his /her family is poor.

The Weekend Food for Kids Program improves kids’ lives and strengthens food security and well-being for our whole community. As one school counselor said, “Everyone — the students, their parents and the teachers — is thrilled with this program.”

For more information about this or other Helpline programs, visit our website (www.QueenAnneHelpline.org) or call (206) 282-1540.

SUSAN BROWN is a Helpline volunteer and Queen Anne resident. 

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