Children are going hungry and there are ways you can help

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By now, most kids in Utah have gone back to school, either in-person or online.

They’re wearing their masks and pulling out their textbooks or logging into their virtual classrooms on Chromebooks.

This school year will be different than any other before in most of our lifetimes. But what hasn’t changed is that we still have too many kids going back to school hungry and without the necessary school supplies.

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In Utah in 2018, one in eight children struggled with hunger—or 113,190 kids, according to the 2019 Map the Meal Gap study. Feeding America projects that significantly more children are going without food in 2020 because of the pandemic.

In Utah County, it estimates that 20.3 percent of children are going hungry, compared to 11.7 percent in 2018. Summit and Wasatch counties’ increases are estimated to be even more significant. Summit’s rate went from 8.4 percent in 2018 to an expected 19 percent in 2020.

In Wasatch County, 23.1 percent of children are likely going hungry compared to 11.6 in 2018.

At Community Action Services and Food Bank, staff are doing everything they can to ensure no child goes hungry.

In addition to food pantries in Wasatch, Summit, and Utah counties, they supply backpacks of food for children to take home on weekends. They also put together school supply kits for children in need.

The organization assembles “Kids Nutrition Paks” every Friday during the school year. Elementary school children in need go home with food they can prepare for themselves over the weekend.

These are children who rely on breakfasts served in schools as well as free or reduced-price lunches.

In 2019, the organization sent nearly 41,000 backpacks full of food home with children in the three counties it serves.

Each backpack contains seven items;

Entree: This can be anything like EasyMac, Cup Noodles, a can of pasta with sauce, or something similar. A child should be able to open and microwave it easily.

Juice: Any kind of 100 percent juice in a sturdy container, like a juice box.

Snack bar: This could be a fiber, protein, or granola bar.

Dried fruit: This could be any type of dried fruit, including raisins, fruit leather, or a fruit and grain bar.

Crackers: This could be peanut butter crackers, a cracker-and-cheese pack, or something similar.

Fruit pouch: This must be in a single-serving pouch or a metal container with a pop-top.

Fruit snacks: Any brand is acceptable.

Community Action Services can’t supply these weekend backpacks to children without donations from the public. You can bring supplies for backpacks, preassemble packs and bring them in, or earmark monetary donations for the program.

School supplies are one of the urgent needs with which the organization helps families in need. Back-to-School kits include:

Pencils, pencil sharpener, notebook, pens, crayons or colored pencils, erasers, glue sticks, stapler and staples, calculator, tape

Like the Nutrition Paks, you can assemble kits on your own and donate them (they don’t need to have every single item listed). Or you can donate items that go into the kits.

Community Action Services is doing its best to make sure no child goes hungry in our area, and that they have what they need to succeed in school. If you’re interested in helping kids in need in your area, you can bring your donations to the warehouse at 815 South Freedom Blvd in Provo. The warehouse accepts donations from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday. For more information, call (801) 373-8200. (Serve Daily submission.)

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