What is the 50 State Challenge? Want to join the Challenge? Email me here.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

What Does 400 Pounds of Food Look Like?

When I first spoke with Kris Wilder about the 50 States Challenge, he immediately suggested collecting and donating fresh fruits and vegetables, because those are scarce in food banks.  I liked the idea of everyone bringing a "ticket" to my class, which could be anything from a head of lettuce to a bag of apples.  But after discussing it with the West Seattle Food Bank, they came up with an even better idea.  It's a targeted program addressing a very specific problem.

Supporting an award-winning not-for-profit in Washington.

Some kids simply don't have enough healthy food to eat at home, so they rely greatly on school lunches.  That makes the weekend a tough time.  Often they're home alone for at least part of the time that their parents are at work, leaving them to prepare their own snacks and meals.  When they get back to school on Monday, even if they're not hungry, they're not necessarily nourished if they've been eating cheap snack food instead of balanced meals.

That's all unfortunate enough by itself, but it comes with some scary side-effects. Without the vital ingredients to build a healthy body and brain, malnourished kids get sick and miss school more often, have more trouble concentrating, and can lack the energy to participate in class.  Since their bodies are still growing, malnutrition in childhood can interfere with development and cause long term or permanent damage.  It can affect the whole class, too, because a child with poor nutrition is a staggering 7 to 12 times more likely to exhibit behavioral problems.

Fortunately there are programs like West Seattle Food Bank's Backpack Program.  They provide backpacks for latchkey kids to assemble their own healthy meals over the weekends when they might otherwise go hungry.  The very generous students at West Seattle Karate donated an impressive 400 pounds of food to this program.

I thought that since the 50 States Challenge is just starting out, there would be a slow start.  We might only collect a couple bags of food and some lessons learned for next time.  Please enjoy these pictures of the students proving me wrong.

One of the classes hiding behind a whole lot of healthy meals.

Piled into the van, on the way to the food bank.

So what does 400 pounds of food look like?  It looks like a bunch of kids with a better shot at an education, a healthier childhood, and a greater chance of growing up to be healthy adults.

If you would like to support a cause like this in your community, get in touch with your local food bank.  Even if they don't have a backpack program, they may have something similar.  Volunteering or donating can make a huge difference to a lot of people.

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