By Amanda Anderson
BREVARD -- Did you know that, in Brevard County, the number of children in the free and reduced-price meal program is more than 45 percent?
Were you aware that some Space Coast elementary schools have more than 80 percent of students on the free and reduced-price meal program, with many of these students being at risk of childhood hunger and malnutrition?
The truth lies boldly within those numbers, while you may not see it, the issue of childhood hunger and malnutrition is ever-present in Brevard's own backyard.
One local team, however, has come up with a way to help fill these children's tummies with the delicious and nutritious food they so desperately need.
On Sunday, June 2, Face of Change, The Children's Hunger Project, United Way of Brevard and Brevard Hunger Alliance/Project Hunger are coming together for a food packaging event to help these children who are in need of a little extra. The event will take place at Brevard Community College's Melbourne Campus in Building 6 -- the gymnasium.
During the school year, schools that participate with The Children's Hunger Project Backpack Program distribute packages of food each Friday to students in need. Now that summer is here, many of these students go without the nutrition their growing minds and bodies crave.
This food-packaging event will help these children over the summer.
"The more than 6,000 packages of food that The Children's Hunger Project volunteers will be preparing are the same packages that we send home with the students through our 'backpack' program during the school year," said Sarah Anthony, executive assistant for The Children's Hunger Project. "The packages consist of a large can of Chef Boyardee pasta, a small can of Spaghettios, a single-serve box of cereal, shelf-stable milk, juice box, applesauce cup and a snack item."
Mrs. Anthony said that The Children's Hunger Project will provide its expertise and volunteers to package the food, while the United Way of Brevard and Brevard Hunger Alliance will distribute the assembled trays through local food pantries and at Summer Feed and Read Program sites.
"At the end of the 2012-13 school year, we are serving 750 students at 20 different schools," Mrs. Anthony said of the overwhelming response to the Backpack Program. "We will start the 2013-14 school year with 1,000 students in at least 22 different schools."
As of press time, Brevard businesses that have registered to help at the food packaging event include the Hilton Oceanfront Hotel, ClearChannel, GE, Lighting Science, Health First and Winn Dixie.
"We also have several school, religious, civic and service groups signed up to volunteer," Mrs. Anthony added.
Individuals are also welcome to volunteer.
While the number of individuals who will benefit from the food packages is currently unknown, Mrs. Anthony said that children may receive multiple packages over the course of the summer.
"When we share our story with groups, the first questions we usually receive is 'What do you do over the summer?' and until now, the answer was that we hope for the best for these children, because without the schools, there wasn't much we could do due to the logistics involved and that the children we serve were anonymous to us," Mrs. Anthony said. "Partnering with the United Way, Project Hunger and the Brevard Hunger Alliance gives us the chance to change our answer this year -- we can do something to help during the summer and some children will receive much-needed nutrition during the school break."
The food packaging event hosted by The Children's Hunger Project, Face of Change, United Way and Brevard Hunger Alliance/Project Hunger is Sunday, June 2 at Brevard Community College's Melbourne Campus Gymnasium.
To register or participate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on The Children's Hunger Project, visit www.thechildrenshungerproject.org.