MILTON — After discussing how many local students go to school and try to learn while hungry, local moms and former educators Rebecca McKeithen and Kellie Hardy decided they needed to do something about it.
The two founded FoodRaising Friends Inc. to help provide at least two nutritious meals a day to every student in need in Santa Rosa County to give them the best start to every school day.
Not an easy task for schools with high percentages of the state reduced lunch program. The higher the percentage is for reduced lunch programs in a school, the more poverty the community normally has in that neighborhood or district.
"It really doesn't matter where you go, this happens in every school," McKeithen said.
The website www.feedingamerica.org estimates that one in four children in the United States goes hungry everyday. There are countless studies and surveys that show proper nutrition can improve a child's ability to learn. Good balanced healthy nutrition is even better. Vegetables, meats and fruits stimulate the bodies’ functions and engage the brain.
Chumcukla Elementary is the next school in line to receive a pantry from FoodRaising Friends, McKeithen said. They have already built a location for food storage at the school.
At the moment FoodRaising Friends is just trying to get their storerooms full of enough food to last the year.
Hardy said there are three parts to this process. One is FoodRaising Friends getting food to every school that needs it. The group operates strictly by donations of non-perishable food and money. Future plans call for the organization to build food pantries at every school in the county.
The food pantries will serve to store three types of food stocks. One side is for the food that children can take home on the weekends so they can at least have one breakfast, one lunch, and a snack for Saturday and Sunday. The food is only enough for one child and intended to last two days.
The second section is intended for long periods away from school, such as Christmas break, spring break and the long summer break. For these long periods away from their regular source of food, FoodRaising Friends gives families supply boxes and bags of food that can responsibly feed a family of four one to two meals a day for two weeks.
The third section of food is for food emergencies. If a student has a food emergency, they can see a counselor and have their needs met.
Hardy said FoodRaising Friends know “it takes a village,” and they rely on the kindness of individuals and support of businesses to help fight childhood hunger in the community.
For more information, go to @FoodRaisingFriends.