We all know how difficult it is to sit through a meeting when we are hungry. Our bellies grumble, our heads start to hurt, and we tend to focus on anything but the topic at hand. Now imagine what it must feel like to be a child sitting in class, who is not only hungry, but who perhaps hasn't eaten since his last meal at school.
The reality is that there are children in Denton County, specifically in the City of Lewisville who suffer from hunger and food insecurity. Some children only eat a complete meal at school, whether breakfast or lunch or both. When these children leave school for the weekend, some do not eat a meal until they return to school on Monday morning. It is hard to imagine and difficult to accept that this hardship affects children in our local schools. The Lewisville Noon Rotary partners with local agencies such as Communities In Schools of North Texas, to not only bring light to this issue, but to demonstrate service above self by alleviating the need and providing healthy food to students who suffer from food insecurity.
The population of students in Lewisville ISD who are receiving free or reduced lunch has grown by 22% over the last twenty four years. Durham Middle School sits feeds into Lewisville High School and is a part of Lewisville ISD central feeder pattern, where the largest concentration of poverty in the district exists. Within the Lewisville community, there are pockets of extreme poverty, where many of our students are living. With poverty also comes the crisis of food instability, extreme mobility, and malnutrition. The impact that hunger can have on student learning is significant. According to Thirty Hour Famine (2017), the following can happen to the brain as an effect of hunger:
• Hunger delays development on the cognitive, social and emotional level. This includes reading, language, attention, memory and problem-solving capabilities.
• Hunger hinders our ability to focus and study. Children who experience hunger early on are more likely to perform poorly academically, repeat a grade and/or require special assistance while in school.
• Each year, as a result of vitamin A deficiency, more than 2 million children experience severe eyesight issues and some are permanently blinded.
• Hunger results in a lower IQ and less developed brain matter then well-nourished children.
• Hunger and stress effect the functioning of the brain that determines decision making.
• A lack of necessary protein, vitamins, minerals and nutrients that contain the energy people need to lead productive lives. Many people eat the same food every day and lack access to these nutrients.
• •When children experience prolonged poverty and hunger, damaging chemicals are released in their brain.
Meeting the Needs:
With funding from the Rotary Foundation, the Lewisville Noon Rotary will work closely with the Lewisville Independent School District, Communities In Schools of North Texas, local food banks, and community volunteers to provide a food pantry on the Durham Middle School campus that is stocked with healthy food, snack packs, and backpack meals that students suffering from hunger or food insecurity can have access to on a regular basis. Communities In Schools of North Texas and Lewisville High School will assist in identifying students who struggle with hunger or food insecurity and will provide opportunities for Rotarians to set up, stock, and maintain order and supplies at the food pantry. The pantry will also be stocked with hygiene items and basic needs items, depending on the emerging needs from the campus, as assessed by the Communities In Schools of North Texas Site Coordinator.
Teachers and school counselors will confirm that children who are hungry are not prepared to learn in school and that starving bellies lead to starving minds. At Lewisville Noon Rotary will strive to bring in community partners and resources to help solve the issues of hunger in our schools. We know that by alleviating children's hunger, we can better prepare them to learn and succeed in school.
The Rotary Food Pantry will be continually stocked with healthy, self-serve food and snacks. Located at a convenient spot on the school campus, students will be able to stop in, access this food, and return to class without missing instruction. Some students will be able to stop by and grab a bag of food to take home, if they will not have access to food over the weekend. Many students are in situations like this, where they are living on the breakfast and lunch provided to them at the school campus each day. The weekends especially, are very difficult to navigate. Rotarians will go to the school, stock and organize the pantry, and pre-stuff daily and weekend bags for students, addressing an essential and fundamental need for students and providing a great volunteer service experience for the Rotarian.
As soon as funding is approved, Lewisville Noon Rotary will purchase the food, hygiene items, basic needs items, storage shelves, storage boxes, bags, and supplies to organize the pantry. In general, the timeline of services provided to students aligns with the school calendar, with enrollment and initial services during August- September, continuing services through May of the following year.
How Project Funds will be spent:
Funding from the Rotary Foundation will be spent on essential items for the Rotary Food Pantry at Durham Middle School. Items that will be purchased include:
Healthy, self-serve foods, meals, and snacks. (This may also include gift cards for groceries and longer-term food needs for homeless and transient students.)
Hygiene items and basic needs items such as deodorant, toothbrushes/paste, facewash, sanitary napkins, soap, etc and other needs emerging from the assessment of the school staff and CIS Site Coordinator
storage unit, shelving, and bins to safely and sanitarily store food
bags for daily and weekend food packs
office supplies such as signs and tags to orderly label and organize the pantry
Some funding may be used to restock the Lewisville High School pantry, which was established by the Lewisville Noon Rotary Club in 2017.
Involvement of Club Members:
We believe that the success of any project rides on the follow through. The Lewisville Noon Rotary club members will be involved in the purchase of the food, shelving, and supplies as well as the packing of the daily and weekend food bags and the organization and set up of the food pantry- both initially and on a regular basis. Our goal is to achieve at least 100 hours of Rotarian service to this pantry by the end of May 2018.
Rotarians will also be heavily involved in the follow up services that are required to ensuring students success by partnering with the campus and local nonprofits such as Communities In Schools of North Texas. Rotarians will be encouraged to serve throughout the year in the following roles:
- Mentors, who meet with students once a week to discuss student progress and to provide encouragement, build self-esteem, and set future goals.
- Tutors- who meet with students as needed to work on core subjects such as math, English, social studies, and science.
- Career Presenters- who come to school campuses to talk to groups of students about careers that interest them. Students will have the opportunity to discuss their questions with the presenter one-to-one following the presentation.
The Lewisville Noon Rotary respectfully requests your attention to these needs, and asks the Rotary Foundation to provide support in the amount of $2,870 to for the Rotary Food Pantry at Durham Middle School. The long-term impact of a successful education is our goal and will be key in order for students to break the cycle of poverty and to reach their full potential in life.