Did your child eat breakfast today? Imagine the heartbreak of sending your kid to school on an empty stomach because you can’t afford food. Sadly, it happens in nearly every neighborhood in Silicon Valley, where 1 in 3 kids is at risk for hunger.
That’s because the high cost of housing is making it difficult for many hardworking families to pay their bills and put food on the table. Despite the booming economy and enormous wealth in Silicon Valley, Second Harvest is feeding more kids and families than ever before. It’s what we call the hunger paradox – as the economy grows, so does the number of people who need food.
The reality is childhood hunger is a big problem that is having a significant impact on our community. Hunger is depriving too many kids of a decent education and hampering their ability to succeed later in life
Studies show that kids who don’t get enough to eat often suffer emotional and physical effects that can last into adulthood. Hunger has been linked with delayed development and learning difficulties. Children who struggle with hunger are also at higher risk for health complications as well as behavioral issues, anxiety and mood swings. But studies also show that low-income kids who have access to food assistance are healthier and perform better at school than other low-income kids who don’t.
We recently launched our Stand Up for Kids Campaign with the goal of raising $7.7 million to ensure that kids get the healthy food they need to thrive. Dollars raised during the campaign will be used to purchase, source and distribute nutritious foods, and to explore new and innovative ways to connect more kids and families to food.
Tech Leaders Stand Up for Kids
Making sure the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs has access to nutritious food is such a critical issue that local tech leaders are co-chairing the Stand Up for Kids Campaign, including John Donahoe, CEO of ServiceNow; Eileen Donahoe, executive director of global digital policy incubator at Stanford’s Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law; Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and partner at Greylock Partners; and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and founder of Leanin.org.
“Given the local focus on STEM education, we need to first recognize that nobody can do math well on an empty stomach,” Hoffman said. “Making sure kids can eat is a foundational investment in STEM, and the future of our workforce, as well as humanity. That’s why I’m a committed supporter of Second Harvest, and why I hope other entrepreneurs, technologists and community members will join us in this effort to make Silicon Valley a better place to live and work.”
Sandberg added, “In Silicon Valley, 1 out of 3 kids is at risk for hunger. I’m proud to support the team at Second Harvest who work to make sure the children in our community get the food they need to thrive.”
Feeding the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs
Second Harvest opened 27 new school pantries last year, part of a coordinated effort to address the rising need. This year we plan to open five more school pantries. Schools are a great place to reach families who may be struggling to feed their kids.
We target schools in high need areas, where more than 70 percent of students qualify for free or low-cost school meals. We are now serving 108 K-12 schools and 10 colleges through our school pantry program, providing free groceries, including fresh produce. We also offer nutrition education at these school pantries and connect families to other food programs like CalFresh (food stamps).
In addition to opening new school pantries and distributing more food to local families, we are intensifying our effort to leverage public food resources like school meals and other federally funded programs aimed at keeping kids and families fed. Second Harvest is collaborating with schools, libraries, community organizations, government entities and others so that more families have access to food right in their own neighborhood.
“If kids have access to nutritious food and don’t have to worry about getting enough to eat, then they can get more out of their education and work toward a better future,” said John Donahoe. “That’s why it’s so important to focus on kids.”
Eileen Donahoe agreed, “Every child deserves the chance to succeed, and that starts with nutritious food.”
In the next blog, we’ll tell you more about the great work happening at our school pantries.