29 Nov When School is Closed So Is the Kitchen
Our community does an amazing job providing food for hungry people during the holidays. My email inbox and social media feeds explode this time of the year with stories of turkey dinners, feasts and other acts of kindness to ensure that families can enjoy a seasonal meal.
It is tough for many of us to imagine sitting down with our families in front of a bountiful table when others are going without and we respond with abundance.
For a number of years, I worked in this community as a hunger fighter at a local nonprofit and sometimes struggled with all the attention on the holiday turkey drives. I felt like a Grinch but was desperate to get the word out about hunger the other 364 days of the year.
As my understanding of community outreach and hunger evolved I realized it was not an either/or proposition but rather a both/and opportunity. Providing the fixings for a holiday feast is a beautiful gift and all families deserve to enjoy this tradition, and equally deserve access to life sustaining nutrition every day of the year.
Nonprofits in our region like Harry Chapin Food Bank, Community Cooperative, Interfaith Caregivers and dozens of local food pantries have their eye and efforts on this issue. They work every day, including holidays to provide food and other services to the hungry in our community. They need our turkeys when they put out the call and our support year-round.
It is particularly tough to face the statistics around childhood hunger. An innocent kid being food insecure is heartbreaking and we act in love and compassion. Of the 41 million food insecure in our country, 13 million are children. 1 out of every 6 kids do not know where their next meal is coming from, not just their holiday meal, but breakfast, lunch and dinner the days, weeks and months that aren’t times of celebration.
This is where schools come in and play an important role in fighting childhood hunger. For many students the free breakfast, lunches and after school snacks provided on campus is their main source of food. Schools also work with nonprofit partners to provide campus based food pantries, weekend back pack programs and mobile units that supplement the school lunch program and distribute food that assist the whole family.
But when the schools are closed so are the cafeterias and students don’t have access to the campus-based resources. Think in terms of days when it comes to the weekends, weeks at winter and spring break and months in the summer. These are critical times that extra help is needed at hunger fighting organizations. These nonprofit superheroes step in to fill in the gaps. When schools are closed, they are open.
But many times, the everyday days don’t get as much attention as the holidays and resources run thin.
As we mark our calendars for family celebrations and discuss how we want to reach out to our neighbors in the coming year let’s not forget the school calendar and the kids who depend on us to walk alongside them 365 days of the year.
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $5.4 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $115 million, it has provided more than $71 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.