Connecting to the Breakfast Challenge on a Personal Level
Guest blogger Abel Pacheco volunteers with United Way on the Emerging Leaders Networking Committee. He is the Assistant Director for External Relations for the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity at the University of Washington, which works to increase diversity on campus and enrich the collegiate experience of all at UW.
Growing up, I struggled in school and would misbehave often. In fact, I was suspended numerous times throughout my childhood and barely graduated high school. While I had the unconditional love of my family, we struggled like many other families and not having breakfast was normal. Research now shows us there is a strong correlation between childhood hunger and children struggling in school.
Sadly and frustratingly, my experience is not unique. For many kids not having breakfast is normal for them too. According to United Way of King County, in Washington State, 1 in 5 kids is regularly at risk of going hungry. 1 in 5! United Way’s partner in this fight against childhood hunger, NoKidHungry.org states that, “3 out of 4 teachers say they have children in their classrooms who regularly come to school hungry.” United Way is looking to change this with the Fuel Your Future campaign by:
- PROVIDING SUMMER MEALS – Free meals and learning activities brought to where kids live and play. Last summer 600,000+ free meals were served up to hungry kids at parks and community centers by our AmeriCorps VISTA team and partners.
- FUEL YOUR FUTURE SCHOOLS – 10 schools in south King County have 2 AmeriCorps members each that focus on getting food to kids who need it by:
- Working to lower the stigma of eating at school
- Linking families to food banks, food stamps and other support
- Pinpointing how these schools can feed more students breakfast, lunch and after-school suppers
- Providing nutritional education
- BREAKFAST CHALLENGE – Encouraging schools and school districts to challenge each other to feed more students. A little competition goes long way to stop rumbling tummies.
Given the tremendous community challenge of feeding hungry kids, I and a group of Emerging Leaders got together to support the Breakfast Challenge. We organized and prepared supplies and materials for staff and AmeriCorps members, made signage to encourage participation in the competition, and prepared healthy snacks for kids. As always with our Emerging Leader volunteer events, we had fun doing it and established new friendships throughout the morning.
We have the resources to help many kids eat breakfast. We also have a community that cares, and United Way is leading the way with the Fuel Your Future Campaign. By the end of our volunteer event, the Emerging Leaders group felt a sense of pride and fulfillment in knowing that we were contributing to the overall effort of feeding more kids. On a more personal note, ensuring more kids don’t have to worry about being hungry during school was the ultimate reward. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that I knew what it felt like to be hungry.
Emerging Leaders is a United Way social group for people in their 20s or 30s looking to get involved with their community. Sign up to receive monthly invitations to upcoming events and meet other like-minded young professionals while you’re at it!