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Creative Solutions Address Rural Hunger for Kids, Where Need is High


Thursday, April 7, 2022   

The highest rates of food insecurity for children are in rural areas, which has prompted innovative ways to solve the issue.

According to Feeding America, 91% of counties with the highest rate of food insecurity are rural.

Will Dittmar, managing director for western region at Save the children, said his organization has come up with different approaches for getting food to rural kids in Washington state, including food vouchers at grocery stores and food boxes sent to families in remote communities.

"We have mobile meal units that will distribute food boxes throughout communities using existing infrastructure like bus routes," Dittmar outlined. "But also going above and beyond, working for example with tribal organizations to make sure we get to the deepest reaches of the state."

Dittmar pointed out Save The Children has distributed 12 million meals to Washington state children during the pandemic.

Food insecurity is an issue for people in all parts of the state. A survey from the University of Washington and Washington State found food insecurity jumped from 10% before the pandemic to 27% last year.

Tamara Sandberg, U.S. adviser for food security and nutrition at Save the Children, said the organization has plans to work with partners to continue their mobile food units this year but face some obstacles.

"One barrier is the end of the waivers that were implemented during the height of the pandemic, that allowed federal child nutrition programs like the summer food service program to deliver food directly to families and to allow families to pick up multiple meals at a time," Sandberg noted.

Sandberg stressed the waivers are set to end June 30.

Dittmar recalled the mobile units have played an especially crucial role in feeding Washington kids. He said the delivery vehicle looked like an ice cream truck and children would run up to it like they would for ice cream in the summer.

"It created such a sense of community," Dittmar recounted. "It was addressing a critical need. And it gave families a sense of security each and every day."

Save the Children and No Kid Hungry are hosting the Rural Child Hunger Summit April 27-28, so anti-hunger advocates can come together and collaborate on solutions.

Disclosure: Save the Children contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Early Childhood Education, Education, and Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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