May 22, 2019 10:21:32 AM
Some of the most important work performed at our schools occurs after classes have ended.
Later this month, schools throughout Mississippi will begin providing breakfast and lunches to those 18 and younger through a USDA-funded summer feeding program administered through the Mississippi Department of Education.
Anyone familiar with the state of child hunger in Mississippi will immediately recognize the importance of this program.
Mississippi ranks last in the nation in food security, with one-in-four children lacking access to regular nutrition. According to the relief organization Feeding America, approximately 163,000 children in the state are food insure.
Closer to home, Feeding America estimates there are 5,000 food insecure kids in Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties. In Lowndes County, one-in-four (3,290 kids) are food insecure. In Oktibbeha County, it's one-in-five (1,740).
For many of those children, the breakfasts and lunches served at school may be their only nutritious meals of the day. Backpack programs are also emerging to help make sure that school children have food over the weekends.
That need is only magnified when school ends for the summer. Children don't stop being hungry when they stop going to school, after all.
The Columbus Municipal School District, Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District and Starkville Parks and Recreation are currently putting the final touches on their Summer Food Service Programs (SFSP). Meals will be provided at a number of schools in each district, which is an important factor. Often, children lack the transportation that is provided through school bus services available during the school year. For that reason, the sites are chosen in high-poverty areas.
Last year, Mississippi's SFSPs provided more than 2.5 million meals. That figure alone should be sobering. That so many of our children go without sufficient food should touch the hearts and stir the consciences of every Mississippian.
Until our state makes a real, concerted and sustained effort to end hunger in our state, these summer food programs are all that stands in the way of tens of thousands of children going hungry.
We applaud the efforts of all those involved in these acts of mercy as another long hungry summer begins.
1. Ask Rufus: 'To All Those Fond of Flowers' LOCAL COLUMNS
2. Roses and thorns: 6/23/19 ROSES & THORNS
3. Mona Charen: Elizabeth Warren's terrible plans NATIONAL COLUMNS
4. Partial to Home: Gardening after dark LOCAL COLUMNS
5. Cartoonist View: 6/23/19 NATIONAL COLUMNS