In 2021, it was projected that the child food insecurity rate for Texas was 24%, ranking fourth highest nationally (Feeding America). Texas has seen the largest increase in the "number of children living in food-insecure households (1.7 million)" (Feeding America, 2021). Across Denton County, specifically, 14% of the child population suffered from food insecurity in 2019. In the same year, of the 28,860 food insecure children in Denton County, 53% were not likely to be eligible for federal nutrition programs. In 2021, it was projected that the Denton County child food insecurity rate would increase to 18%.
The Lewisville Independent School District's Central Zone feeder pattern culminates with the following three high schools: Lewisville High School, Killough High School, and Harmon High School. The following schools feed into these high schools: Durham Middle School, DeLay Middle School, Hedrick Middle School, Huffines Middle School, Degan Elementary School, and Lewisville Elementary School. Among the nine campuses, an average of 73% of students qualified for free and reduced lunch during the 2022-2023 school year, indicating that their family was economically disadvantaged. With poverty also comes the crisis of food instability, extreme mobility, and malnutrition.
According to a study examining the association of food insecurity with children's behavioral, emotional, and academic outcomes, "household food insecurity, even at marginal levels, identified by a variety of measures, is associated with children's behavioral, academic, and emotional problems beginning as early as infancy" (Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 2017). More specifically, in school-aged children, food insecurity is associated with "impaired academic performance, increased hyperactivity, inattention, aggressive behavior, missing school, borderline emotional problems, less adaptive interpersonal relations, self-control and approaches to learning, more internalizing and externalizing behaviors, and greater likelihood of having seen a psychologist" (Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 2017). There were further associations between adolescents experiencing food insecurity and "seeing a counselor, suspension from school, difficulty getting along with others, and substance use disorders" (Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 2017). Food insecurity, as well as the issues that follow, serve as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). When left unaddressed, ACEs can "compromise cognitive and noncognitive socio-emotional skills in children, decreasing likelihood of school success" (NJ Funders, 2019).
The Lewisville Noon Rotary partners with local agencies such as Communities In Schools of North Texas, to not only bring light to this issue affecting the Lewisville community, but to demonstrate service above self by alleviating the need and providing healthy food to students who suffer from food insecurity.
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 (CIS) of North Texas to provide a food pantry during the 2023-2024 school year to nine high need campuses. The school campuses will include Lewisville High School, Harmon High School, Killough High School, Hedrick Middle, Degan Middle, Delay Middle, Huffines Middle, Degan Elementary, and Lewisville Elementary. Through the Rotary Foundation grants and Rotarian support, we will be able to buy food for the pantries for kids to have during the day and weekends.
These community outreach funds will help keep our kids fed and help to keep them healthy and be able to stay in school for their education.
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 and/or re-stock the pantries. 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 Pantries at Lewisville High School, Killough High School, Harmon High School, Durham Middle School, Hedrick Middle School, DeLay Middle School, Huffines Middle School, Degan Elementary, and Lewisville Elementary. 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, latex or rubber gloves, sanitizer, and wipes for food safety 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
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, 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 the Rotary pantries by the end of May 2024.
Rotarians will also be heavily involved in the follow-up services that are required to ensure student success by partnering with each school 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.
● Academic Coaches, 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 provision of basic resources, which are critical to students' health and wellness, will empower students with the tools to succeed in and outside of the classroom. The long-term impact of a successful education is our goal and will be key for students to break the cycle of poverty and reach their full potential in life.