In a few short weeks, my family, friends and I will sit down at a table gleaming with crystal and sparkling with candlelight to share our annual Thanksgiving feast. The table will be laden with all of our favorite foods.
Conversations will be about happenings and successes at the workplace, accomplishments at school and gratitude for our many blessings. The room will ring with the laughter of children, thrilled at the prospect of enjoying the long weekend ahead.
But for hundreds of at-risk families, the holiday of Thanksgiving will look very different. Some of these families will spend their holiday at soup kitchens, community centers or in church halls. And those are the lucky ones.
Others will dine on white bread, part of a can of beans or a sandwich of peanut butter or lunch meat. Parents may even consider not eating dinner at all – so their children can.
In 2014, I founded a nonprofit called Baltimore Hunger Project with the mission of eliminating weekend childhood hunger in the Baltimore metropolitan area.
For hungry children, long weekends are nothing to celebrate. Although public schools in the city of Baltimore and Baltimore County do a magnificent job of providing breakfasts and lunches for their students from Monday through Friday, on the weekends — despite sometimes heroic work done by other organizations — some children still won’t have enough to eat.
They face the prospect of three more days of hunger, growling stomachs and hardly the energy to play. It’s no wonder these youngsters find it difficult to focus and achieve in school.
It’s no wonder they face unhealthy and uncertain futures.
These children suffer from what the U.S. Department of Agriculture has termed “food insecurity — the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” One in five children in Maryland is food insecure.
At Baltimore Hunger Project, we address children’s food insecurity by discreetly tucking a weekend’s worth of food into their backpacks on Fridays. In this way, we ensure that otherwise hungry children are nourished and ready for school on Mondays.
With the help of grants and donations, we now support 350 children in the city and county. But our waiting list is even longer than that.
Can you help?
Also see: Quick 5: Ruth’s Closet
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