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Food For Thought: Feed A Child, Improve Their Education

November 30, 2009

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Many people may still feel stuffed from their Thanksgiving Day feasts and all the leftovers. But for others, this week is another struggle to put food on the table. According to the hunger relief group Share Our Strength, 62 percent of teachers see hungry students in their classrooms who are not getting enough to eat at home.

In Missouri, the good news is that backpack healthy snack programs are making a difference. Ellen Feldhausen, community relations spokesperson with the Harvesters food bank, says an evaluation of its program finds students who receive the nutritious snacks are getting better grades, have higher attendance rates, and more.

"And their behavior was better in the classroom. So we know that, by providing these kids with enough food, we're giving them an opportunity to not only be healthier, but to excel in school and just do better all the way around."

Another report, from the U.S. Agriculture Department, ranks Missouri sixth in the nation for the number of children living in families that can't always afford nutritious meals.

"In addition, they said 17 million children are living in food-insecure households, and that is almost one in four children in our country. That's a fairly dramatic and, I think, a fairly shocking number, in a country with the kind of wealth that we have."

Feldhausen adds that donations and support for food banks are critical now more than ever, as the demand for services has increased at least 30 percent nationwide. She says the BackSnack program has grown in the last two years from providing 650 students with healthy snacks to 10,000 each weekend in the Kansas City area alone.

The Share Our Strength Web site is www.strength.org

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO