Saturday, February 26, 2011

Childhood Hunger Campaign is Under Way in New Mexico

New Mexico is one of the states with the highest rate of food insecurity in the country, even though recent statistics show that we have made progress in recent years in addressing the problem.  Yet, there are still tens of thousands of people in our state who go hungry.  And where there are hungry families, there are hungry children.

So what can we do about it?  While there are broad efforts to address hunger among all generations, the national nonprofit organization Share Our Strength has launched a national campaign targeting childhood hunger called No Kid Hungry.

Nancy Pope, director of the NM Collaboration to End Hunger
The program is first being implemented in states where there are strong anti-hunger coalitions already working on this issue.  We were among the first chosen because of the great work of the New Mexico Collabortion to End Hunger.  Now SOS and the Collaboration are working on a joint campaign called NoKid Hungry New Mexico.

“The partnership with Share Our Strength will allow the Collaboration to focus its resources on simply connecting children to programs they are eligible for but not participating in,” said Nancy Pope, director of the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger. “We are pleased that Share Our Strength sees the potential for ending childhood hunger in New Mexico and we look forward to working hand in hand with them to make sure no child in New Mexico grows up hungry.”

The strong local organization gives the effort a strong chance of success.  "We want to use New Mexico as an example," said Billy Shore, SOS founder and executive director.  SOS has also developed strong partnerships in Maryland, Arkansas and Colorado.

So how is this going to work?

SOS director Billy Shore
First, let's define the problem. Roughly 170,000 New Mexico kids receive free or reduced-price school lunches funded by the USDA. All are eligible for other free meal programs, but only 60 percent are enrolled in school breakfast programs.

“Our focus is on long-term change, the difference between just feeding a child today and making sure no child in the U.S. ever goes hungry again,” said Shore, who joined the Collaboration at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center to launch the campaign on Feb. 25. 

“State and city-wide No Kid Hungry Campaigns provide funding to the most effective anti-hunger organizations and build partnerships that bring together private funders, public officials and nonprofit organizations, which is why we chose to partner with the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger.” 

But there are also short-term goals.  The campaign seeks to increase the school breakfast program by 15 percent and the summer lunch programs by three percent in 2011. Share our Strength is investing more than $200,000 in 2011 for the New Mexico No Kid Hungry Campaign.  

Shore points out that many members of the public are not aware what it means to be hungry in the United States.  Children are not hungry here because of famine or wars or food scarcities.  In fact, we have an abundance of food here in the U.S. “Most kids in this country aren’t' lacking food in this country because we aren’t', but because they lack access to resources like school breakfast or school lunch or summer feeding,” he said.

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