Greene County Food Security Partnership Initiatives
Due to the rural nature of Greene County, the Partnership has recognized that sharing information about public and private food resources is critical to increasing access to food programs. As a result, the Partnership has identified three ways to strategically engage and educate the Greene County community and grow cooperation among service organizations to holistically address issues of food security.
Increase Access to Food and Community Engagement
1) Identifying people who are isolated from information and implement new and enhance existing methods of communication and service that can be utilized and improved to best meet needs and to educate and engage Greene County about food insecurity. By developing a collaborative network of organizations, churches, businesses, agencies, and institutions of higher education, a broader and more holistic approach to effectively addressing food security is being established.
2) Developing and/or implementing digital media, print resources, and other strategies that are used to offer centralized information resources for families seeking assistance, detailing information such as eligibility guidelines, distribution locations, and contact persons, as well as, providing a volunteer service directory to engage a broad and diverse volunteer base in addressing food security across the county. The development of communication strategies is aimed at ensuring that all areas of the county have access to information on food security equitably.
3) Conducting outreach events targeting specific or isolated population groups to provide educational opportunities across the county. Through community education and training on food security, access, and engagement local people and organizations are empowered to build a healthier community together. As the Partnership grows, the goal will be to develop additional community leaders to address the concerns of poverty and food insecurity.
Summer Food Service Program
In 2009, there were no organizations participating in this program in Greene County, yet with a poverty rate of 16.3% and a child food insecurity rate of 25.9%, the evidence pointed to significant need for childhood summer food assistance. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank set out to change that by educating community partners and enlisting their participation. The level of concern and commitment is evidenced by the fact that in 2010 13,000 meals were provided to more than 800 children and in 2011 25,000 meals were provided to more than 1,000 children. Carmichaels Area School District, West Greene and Central Greene School Districts have assumed oversight of the food program.
The Partnership assists in increasing the number children receiving summer food meals by:
1) increasing the number of summer feeding sites to reach children who live in more isolated communities or are otherwise unable to access existing program sites, and;
2) increasing the number of children participating in existing summer feeding sites. These activities will be accomplished through educating the community about the availability of the program and summer feeding sites, developing new sites and working on creative ways to reach the most isolated parts of Greene County.
Weekend Food Program
Just as we know children are hungry in the summer we also know that not all children have access to food on weekends and holidays. The Weekend Food Program seeks to begin to address this concern for the most food insecure students (chronically hungry) in local elementary schools in Greene County.
As of March 7, 2014, approximately 140 children across the five school districts in Greene County were receiving packages of food to take home over the weekend.
A chronically hungry child will be anxious for a meal to be served, especially on Monday mornings. Perhaps they rush the cafeteria line or they are showing up early for breakfast. During the meal they will eat all of the food, not being picky in what they have placed before them. One indicator of hunger is that a child cleans his plate and will not carelessly throw portions of it away. They will also linger around for second helpings or even ask for more, sometimes sneaking additional portions and hoarding food in their lockers or desks. Sometimes the behavior of a child indicates problems at home, with food insufficiency being one of the problems. Observing some of the following criteria may help in identifying chronic hunger:
- Excessive absences – due to sickness or unexcused
- Hyperactive, aggressive, irritable, anxious, withdrawn, distressed, passive/aggressive – any display of these mentioned which leads to disciplinary action
- Repetition of a grade
- Difficulty in forming friendships, getting along with others
- Sickness – sore throat, common cold, stomach ache, ear infection, fatigue
- Short attention span, inability to concentrate
- Lack of food resources
- Parent unable to prepare meals
Any child with risk factors may be considered for the Weekend Food Program which provides items to help cover two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners for the student.