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School Food Pantries Provide Students With More Food

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By guest blogger Gina Cairney

Food insecurity can have negative consequences, especially on young children.

Being undernourished "can impede behavioral and cognitive development, educability, and reproductive health," according to the World Bank, which can undermine future work productivity.

In efforts to ensure children and families have access to food, some food pantries have begun working with K-12 school systems to set up a pantry on campus to make food more accessible to families in need.

A pilot program was launched at six schools in Washington County, Md., according to the Herald-Mail, after the Western Branch of the Maryland Food Bank floated the idea with the school system last year.

"We just decided that we can feed a lot more people for less money with a pantry on the premises," Ed Kennedy, the network relations manager for the Western Branch of the Maryland Food Bank, told the Herald-Mail. The school-based food banks will provide families with 30 to 40 pounds of food per week.

The Washington, D.C.-based Martha's Table also provides school food pantries in select schools in the District of Columbia and Mount Rainier, Md., after partnering with the retailer Target in 2011 to provide groceries to students once a month during the school year.

A food bank in St. Louis, Mo., also launched a one-year pilot program last October in the Jennings school district, after receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds from the state.

In 2011, 16.7 million children in the United States lived in food-insecure households, according to Feed America, and approximately 22 percent of children lived in poverty.

Children who live in food-insecure families are at risk of developing poor health and stunted growth, which can affect academic success in school, according to the organization's website.

While debate rages over how schools can help break the cycle of poverty, there's perhaps nothing more heartbreaking than a child living in poverty recognizing his or her own depressing situation.

In an earlier post, Education Week reporter Lesli Maxwell wrote about the PBS Frontline documentary "Poor Kids" that highlights the awareness that children in poverty have about their lives.

"To us, it's just how we live," 10-year-old Kaylie said in the documentary, "You don't get to make choices in how you live."

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