Just a few weeks ago, we attended a graduation ceremony in North Philadelphia. It was a small gathering--19 proud women and men who were accompanied by their family members, busily snapping photos and clapping as each graduate’s name was called.
These weren’t high school or college students. These accomplished graduates were part of the inaugural group of members of our Green Light Pantry, and they had just completed a one-year series of nutrition classes.
We created the Green Light Pantry program over a year ago to serve as a new model for what food pantries could look like here in Philadelphia and beyond. Unlike traditional food pantries, Green Light Pantries provide only healthy foods to members--fresh fruits and vegetables; whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat pasta; lean proteins such as fish, chicken and beans; and low-fat dairy products, including yogurt and skim milk.
To further support families in making healthier choices, we also give them biweekly nutrition classes, medical screenings and other free services.
On that graduation day a few weeks ago, we were thrilled to honor the 19 women and men who had taken time out of their busy lives to complete a year’s worth of nutrition classes as part of our Green Light Pantry program. Among them were working mothers and fathers as well as grandparents who had made a commitment to helping their families lead healthier, more active lives.
That includes parents like Leonella, a mother of three teen boys. She works full time and attends college classes in the evening, so it’s a daily challenge to afford and prepare balanced meals. “My three boys have all struggled with their weight, because it can be really tough to afford healthy foods,” she said. "We used to eat a lot of mac and cheese, instant noodles, or other foods that were cheap and filling. The Green Light Pantry allows us to eat healthier foods, and my kids love it. They love trying new fruits and vegetables.”
Stories like Leonella’s (and those of all the graduates we honored a few weeks ago) wouldn’t be possible without supporters like you.
We know that we have much work ahead to ensure all families in our region have access to the healthy food they need, but reaching this milestone assures us that we’re on the right track.
We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but far too many low-income children aren’t getting the nutrition they need in school.
More than 600,000 low-income children eat school lunch in Pennsylvania. But over half of those kids--56 percent--aren’t getting school breakfast. And when kids skip breakfast, it can affect their health as well as their ability to learn in school.
That’s why this school year, the Coalition Against Hunger launched the first-ever Pennsylvania School Breakfast Challenge, with the help of public and private partners across the state.
The 2014 Pennsylvania School Breakfast Challenge aims to increase participation in the School Breakfast Program to ensure all students start their day off right. Schools that participate in the Challenge can receive technical assistance and equipment to improve their breakfast programs, from spreading the word about school breakfast to students and families to implementing alternative models of serving breakfast that are proven to boost participation.
More than 1,100 schools have registered for the Challenge, with a total enrollment of 675,000 students.
Thanks to supporters like you, we’re ensuring all students have access to school breakfast so more children have the nutrition they need to succeed in school.
It’s hard to believe that summer is already over. But thanks to supporters like you, thousands of students in the Philadelphia region went back to school last month, nourished and ready to learn.From June through August, the Coalition Against Hunger connected more than 3,400 children in our city with free summer meals, ensuring no kid went hungry while school was out.There were over 1,000 parks, churches, recreation centers and other community sites that offered free summer meals to children throughout the city. Despite this availability, we found that more than half of low-income students in Philadelphia were still missing out on those critical summer meals. That’s why the Coalition works hard every summer to get the word out to families across the city who could benefit from this important nutrition program. This summer, we operated the toll-free Philly Summer Meals Hotline and text messaging service, so families could find their nearest sites. We also partnered with community organizations, neighborhood food pantries, places of worship, libraries, health centers and more, enlisting their help to spread the word about free summer meals for kids. By summer’s end, we had helped more than 3,400 children get free summer meals in Philadelphia, ensuring they had the nutrition they needed while school was out.We couldn’t have done this work without the support of dedicated individuals like you. Thank you for your help in making this summer a good one for more kids in our city, and we look forward to staying in touch throughout the year.
Some staggering facts:
With numbers like these, we know it's no longer enough to provide food to hungry families. We must ensure that these families have nutritious food that improves their overall health, instead of just filling their bellies.
That's why last month, the Coalition Against Hunger opened a first-of-its kind food pantry in the city. Unlike most food pantries, this new program will provide only highly nutritious, quality foods to clients. We call the program our "Green Light Pantry.”
Here, we provide families with only foods that can be categorized as “Green Light Foods” under a system that ranks foods based on their Nutritional Facts labels and USDA Dietary Guidelines.
Families are also allowed to choose their own food. Among the selection: Whole-wheat pasta and cereals; low-fat milk and yogurt; fresh fruits and vegetables; and lean proteins, such as canned salmon, frozen chicken, fresh eggs, and beans with no salt added. Items that you might typically find at other food pantries—mac and cheese, for instance, or canned soups that are high in sodium—will not be carried.Clients also attend nutrition classes every month and receive free health screenings and assistance in applying for SNAP (food stamps), school meals and other programs that can help their families afford to make healthier food choices.
Our first Green Light Pantry opened in the Kensington section of Northeast Philadelphia this spring, and we've already seen some results.
“The Green Light Pantry gives me access to healthy and fresh grown food—things that I wouldn’t think of buying myself,” says one pantry client, Nasheeda, who has a 1-year-old son. “I now have the opportunity to change my diet and have learned how to make healthier meals.”
We think it's a good start. Next up? A second Green Light Pantry in North Philadelphia, scheduled to open this fall.Thank you, as always, for your support.
Nearly 1.6 million. That’s the number of people in Pennsylvania who struggle to put food on the table every year. More precisely, that figure represents the 1 in 8 residents considered to be “food insecure.” That means they don’t always have access to the food they need for an active, healthy life, according to the USDA.. Who is affected by food insecurity in Pennsylvania? What resources are available to people living with it? Most importantly, what more can we do to make sure they get the help that they need? Last week, we released a report that aimed to answer these questions. The report, “State of Hunger: Pennsylvania 2013,” features an interactive map that, for the first time, makes data available on the number of residents who receive food assistance in all 67 counties.
Hunger exists in communities across Pennsylvania, though it’s easy to overlook. You probably wouldn’t know that a co-worker often goes home to an empty refrigerator. Or that the boy in your child’s class can’t concentrate because he hasn’t had breakfast. Or that the cashier at your grocery store worries about being able to pay for enough food for his own family.
“The report paints a vivid picture of how important programs like SNAP (food stamps) and school meals are to every community in Pennsylvania,” says Julie Zaebst, the Coalition's interim executive director. "But it also reminds us that far too many people who struggle with hunger aren’t participating in these vital programs. As a state, we must ensure more residents get the help they need."
Thanks to supporters like you, the Coalition has helped more than 50,000 families apply for SNAP and other food assistance programs over the past decade. We're also able to support more than 100 food pantries and soup kitchens, so they can serve more low-income families and seniors in neighborhoods across the Philadelphia region.
And we work with community members to raise awareness about ways we can all fight hunger in our backyard. This report is one way that everyday citizens can get involved.
Visit www.hungerreportpa.com to:
Hunger is an overwhelming issue, but it’s a solvable one. In a country as wealthy as the United States, we have plenty of food to nourish every resident. We hope this report offers you more insight into the challenges we face in ending hunger and what more we can all do to make it a reality. Thank you, as always, for your support.
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