Nearly 30,000 local children impoverished, hungryWritten by Patrick Timmis | | email@example.com
Toledo Free Press will focus a six-week series this summer on the mission of Feed Lucas County Children (FLCC). From July 3 to July 10, Walt Churchill’s markets will participate in a “Round Up Hunger” campaign to raise funds for FLCC.
A young boy approached the lunch server at Wildwood Environmental Academy the last week of classes.
“What are we supposed to do after school lets out? What are we supposed to eat?” he asked Danice Anderson. “’Cause I’ll be hungry.”
In Lucas County, 29,962 children under the age of 18 — 27.4 percent — live at or below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census. During the school year, the National School Lunch Program ensures at least one meal a day for them. But that program halts during the long summer break, leaving many children scrounging for food.
Feed Lucas County Children (FLCC) is trying to help by providing healthy meals at 65 locations throughout the summer, and its service is growing exponentially. When the group started in the summer of 2002, it distributed more than 7,000 meals. Last summer, the number was 242,000, with up to 6,200 children eating on the busiest days.
That means the program is reaching roughly one-quarter of city’s hungry children, said Tony Siebeneck, director of FLCC — far too small a number, but the group is about to run out of kitchen space. Siebeneck estimated the group could comfortably feed 8,000 before it would have to start building.
Dacia Bolden is a mother who works with autistic children at Eagle Academy. Children come to school hungry because they don’t eat breakfast, she said, and she knows four of the young families are “latchkey kids” with no parents bringing food home at night.
“It’s a time of economics that has caused a lot of parents not to be able to feed their family, and some of it’s just ignorance, thinking one meal is enough,” she said.
Many children will scrounge in the Dumpsters behind fast food restaurants after closing time, said Anthony Johnson, director of the children’s inner-city program Kids Unlimited.
“If my mother’s a drug addict and she’s not home to feed me, I can go right up to McDonald’s and eat for free every day,” he said.
Fast food and other “junk food” often fill the gap for children and allows children to survive, which results in obesity and diabetes, Siebeneck said.
Laurie Lyell, registered nurse at Mercy Children’s Hospital, said 19 percent of Ohio’s children are obese, with an additional 16 percent overweight.
“There’s also a tendency for them to be malnourished, not getting the appropriate nutrients for what they need,” said Jeannie Wagner, a registered dietitian at the hospital. “We don’t think of them as malnourished because they’re heavier.”
Bolden turned to Feed Lucas County Children herself after a divorce left her scrambling to provide for her children. The group lifted some of her burden, she said, and it feeds children who otherwise might eat once a day.
“A lot of those children would not have breakfast or lunch,” she said. O