The U. S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as “the lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” Merrell Footwear, an active lifestyle brand, joins the Mast Store for the eleventh year in 2019 to provide Food for Kids (October 21-November 3). During these dates, when you purchase a pair of Merrell Footwear at Mast Store, Merrell will make a donation to the Hunger and Health Coalition to fill a backpack with weekend food for kids.
Children are the most at risk with food insecurity. A growling stomach has an effect on a child’s body and also dampens his or her ability to learn or stay focused in the classroom. According to Feeding America, the percentage of children under the age of 18 living in food insecure households is 17.9% in the United States. Sadly, in North Carolina that number rises to 22.6%.
Mast Store’s food security partners are putting their best foot forward with many services specifically targeting children. The weekend food backpack program is one of them; it provides nourishing, easy-to-fix foods for over the weekend – a time when children don’t have access to their support system of breakfast and lunch. Over the last year, the Hunger and Health Coalition has started serving all Watauga County schools with the backpack program.
“We are thankful for Merrell’s support of this program,” said Lisa Cooper, president of Mast Store. “By fueling their bodies with food, we are fulfilling a great need and providing a building block for their future success.”
Merrell is a perfect partner for this program. Their overall brand goal is to remove barriers to enjoying the outdoors. By removing hunger as a barrier for learning and living, the steps for leisure and enjoying the beauty that surrounds us become attainable.
Here’s how the backpack program works. Teachers and school administrators know their kids and can tell a lot just by how they behave. When they confirm a student is food insecure, they work with the local food bank to get a backpack or bag filled with weekend food, which is then discreetly given to the child. It’s returned on Monday for refilling.
Teachers report improved participation and alertness in class, but that’s not all. One of our partners observed that these weekend bundles of caring also promote belonging and being like the other kids.
Food security agencies do so much with just a little. To fill a backpack with weekend food for a child for a month is roughly equal to a cheeseburger, fries, and a drink at a sit-down restaurant. Even if you don’t need a new pair of shoes, you can support the effort by dropping spare change in the donation jars at the registers at Mast Store.
Food for Kids helps ignite the flame of learning and engagement in our future leaders, employees, and teachers. AND, it’s food for thought for us. To learn more about how you can help the Hunger and Health Coalition by donating or volunteering, visit their website at HungerandHealthCoalition.com.