Fueling the future: Addressing childhood food insecurity in our communities

(BPT) – Food insecurity is a growing issue in the United States and poses a particular challenge for families with children under the age of 18. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 6.5 million American households with children experienced food insecurity in 2022, when they were uncertain of having or unable to acquire enough food to meet the needs of all their family members.

The winter months can be especially hard for families facing food insecurity. Extra expenses during this time of year, like higher home heating costs, often force many families to make tough choices about basic needs.

According to Feed the Children — a nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood food insecurity — higher food prices, economic instability and other factors have made providing for a family even harder, with one in five children in the U.S. being hungry this holiday season.

While there’s no single solution, individuals and organizations can step up to help. For example, one company is working to support students in high-needs communities with access to food and other critical resources.

Supporting children now and year-round

Food companies play an important role in addressing this issue, often through collaboration with nonprofit groups. That’s why for over a decade, Frito-Lay has partnered with Feed the Children to provide food for families across the U.S. and help achieve its mission to create more smiles and a brighter future with every bite.

At the start of the pandemic, Frito-Lay and Feed the Children recognized that the role of schools in the United States was changing. Due to this shift, they expanded their partnership by launching Building the Future Together. Schools across the country are often providing more than just education. The partnership strategically evaluated what was needed most and set out to create a program that enables school districts to provide students and their families with everyday essential items and other much-needed resources.

“Food security is more critical than ever and as a food company, we have a responsibility to do our part to ensure students and families have what they need to succeed,” said Nikki Jolly, Senior Manager of Corporate Citizenship and Social Impact at PepsiCo Foods North America. “We believe that when our communities thrive, we all thrive.”

Supplies such as shelf-stable food items, hygiene products, books and more are given to school districts to distribute to students and their families throughout the school year and whenever they are needed most. The products stocked in schools’ resource rooms can be a lifeline for families, especially in times of tragedy.

“We had a family impacted by a house fire and spent time in temporary housing, hotels, etc.,” said a staff member at Phoenix Union High School District. “We were able to tell this family to save money for living expenses and visit the resource center weekly ­­­­— and sometimes biweekly — for food, snacks and hygiene products.”

So far, the program has served over 110,000 families and has provided nearly 1.5 million pounds of resources. In its fourth year, Building the Future Together has launched in some of the highest-needs cities across the country to provide additional support to local school districts, including Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Orlando and Phoenix.

Schools that have participated in the Building the Future Together program say they’ve seen a 63% increase in school attendance and student engagement, a 38% increase in student confidence and a 25% improvement in student grades. The measurable impact of this program allows more students to complete their education, setting them up for greater financial stability and independence for themselves and their families.

“Food insecurity is often invisible,” said Feed the Children President and CEO Travis Arnold. “We rarely know what someone else is going through, which is why we need to take care of our neighbors. Feed the Children is thankful for the partnership with Frito-Lay and their support of the Building the Future Together program as we tackle the important issue of childhood food security.”

There is still more work to be done to address childhood food insecurity. During the colder months, get into the spirit of the season and do your part to help children and their families receive what they need to succeed. To learn more or donate, visit FeedTheChildren.org.

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