Must! Charities partners up to feed hungry children
‘Real Food for Real Children’
Must! Charities announces collaboration with SLO County Food Bank Coalition
Expansion of existing food bank program provides healthy meals to local children in North SLO County
Must! Charities announced today its new, two-year collaboration and $220,000 investment with the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County, called “Real Food for Real Children,” designed to meet the need to provide adequate healthy food to all children in North SLO County, especially during the summer months when school is not in session. Created to be 100 percent sustainable within two years, the project will grow from feeding 500 children in need to more than 1,500 by summertime next year and up to 2,500 kids the following year.
One in five children in the North SLO County lives in poverty; these children are particularly susceptible to health issues like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and many forms of cancer. School programs address only part of the problem during the school year, and meet the minimum United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition requirements. Currently, more than 6,000 children in North County receive free or reduced lunches during the school year and go without in the summer.
“Because we are all about collaboration, this project will not only focus on food, but also expand and educate families on nutrition education in a variety of ways to both parents and children,” shared Becky Gray, executive director of must! charities. “We will also be bringing in a community of volunteers who will expand the program to include other enrichment opportunities for these children, while providing food (including literacy programs, farming and gardening, art, nutrition, medical and dental, and more).”
Meals will have increased nutritional density, and could include a lunch plus a breakfast, a dinner or a snack. After the initial two-year program period, the program will be completely self-sustainable, capable of expanding even further beyond the 2,500 children reached after the second year. Ultimately, all 6,124 identified local children (source: California Dept. of Education) in need will have access to healthy food when they are not in school (summer months, holidays and after-school hours). This project is mobile, and will be reaching out to the most remote places in the county.
“We are grateful and pleased to partner with must! charities to serve more children in North County and provide more services to them,” stated Carl R. Hansen, executive director of the SLO County Food Bank Coalition. “Healthy food is preventive health care, and necessary for a child’s academic and social success in life. Real Food for Real Children is not an expense, but an investment in our children and our future.”
“We are ‘Venture Philanthropists’ who are coming together, pooling our funds, to invest heavily in a “futures” market,” continued Gray. “However, instead of looking for a cash return, we are looking for a positive social return in our communities, and we welcome volunteers who want to get involved with this new program.”
Founded by must! charities and the Food Bank, with close collaboration with the USDA, the California Department of Education, SLO County Public Health Services, the University of California Cooperative Extension, the Culinary Arts Academy (part of Paso Robles Unified School District), Farm to Family, GleanSLO, and the SLO County Food System Coalition, additional collaborative partners will be added as the program expands, to bring in other resources such as nutritional education and literacy programs.