I am sad, and here’s why. Just last week I learned about an alarming statistic. One out of every six children in the U.S. is at risk of hunger. (12.4 million children) I also learned that many students leave school on Friday, and are hungry until they return to school on Monday. There is simply not enough food at home.
Blessingsinabackpack.org is trying to change these numbers. The unique program is simple and designed to feed the elementary children who need help the most. Better test scores, positive behavior, increased attendance, and improved reading skills have all been linked to the success of the program.
Actor Omar Miller, from the CBS show CSI Miami, introduced me to Blessingsinabackpack.org. Fans also know Miller from the films Transformers and Spike Lee’s Miracle on St. Anna. I met up with Miller at a local elementary school in Los Angeles recently, and we both stepped in to help stuff backpacks for over one thousand students. It was an eye-opening experience.
At Normandie Avenue Elementary in Los Angeles, volunteers, parents, and teachers work for hours preparing the bags that are filled with non-perishable items like granola bars, soup, cereal, popcorn, and pudding. Every other Friday the students line up to get their bags. I saw the kids come in with their backpacks open. They were not bashful or ashamed. In fact, they were proud and excited. One teacher even told me she saw one child eating out of the bag soon after getting it, and she said to him “The food is for the weekend.” The child quickly responded, “But I’m hungry now.”
It’s simple. We cannot let our kids go hungry.
Miller agrees, and tells me it is exactly why he got involved. He has also started his own 501c3, The Omar Miller Foundation which takes left over food from television and movie sets, and provides it to needy families.
Blessingsinabackpack.org is currently feeding nearly forty thousand students in thirty-two states, but here in Los Angeles, the program is in only one school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. We can help change that because this program is easy to implement. Parents, teachers, community activists, and corporate supporters are finding they can implement the idea quickly. We just have to take that first step.
Children are our future, and as cliché as that may sound, they need our help and our hearts, and they need it fast. Spread the word.
$80 feeds one child every weekend for the entire school year.
Data shows that hungry children are sick more often and have lower academic achievement.
Over 62% of children in the U.S. Public School system are on the Free or Reduced Meal program.
Hunger makes it difficult for children to pay attention and learn.
With Photographer & Editor Carlos Cortes and Omar Miller