Hunger is a serious community issue throughout the country – and here in Southern Nevada. It is even more of a problem for the thousands of children who do not qualify for existing backpack programs or other governmental services, but still face empty plates on the weekends. To fill this gap, the nonprofit Serving Our Kids Foundation provides weekend food bags to thousands of children – and the number of hungry kids is rising.
To meet the growing demand and continue filling the weekend hunger gap, Serving Our Kids is launching a new fundraising initiative to raise awareness about child hunger and food insecurity in the Las Vegas Valley. Called the Fall Food Flash, the campaign is encouraging more people, businesses and organizations to donate funds or designated nutritional food items for those in need, and it encompasses new and existing Serving Our Kids programs and activities to engage the public at all levels.
The campaign kicks off with the Serving Our Kids Food Drive from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Sam’s Club, 7100 Arroyo Crossing Pkwy., with a 97.1 The Point live remote followed by the Black Mountain Stake Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Food Drive from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. as part of the church’s Annual Day of Service.
The Fall Food Flash launch is also in conjunction with September’s designation as Hunger Awareness Month.
Serving Our Kids has been filling weekend food bags for 3,500 children in 70 schools, but is receiving requests for more. Organization representatives estimate the actual number of kids requiring weekend meals may be 8,000 to 10,000.
“Sadly, we have a waiting list of kids who need our help so they don’t go hungry,” said Patricia Farley, chair of the Serving Our Kids board, citing a 27 percent increase in referral calls from counselors and teachers over last year. “With more donations from the community, we can provide the necessary nutritional support for more of these vulnerable children.” She estimated at least 4,450 food bags per week are now needed to fill existing referrals.
“Other organizations, like Three Square, do a tremendous job of focusing on the population who qualifies for nutrition assistance, but a need exists for those who do not qualify and continue to struggle,” Farley said. “Children don’t understand complex federal eligibility guidelines or the fancy terminology used to designate their eligibility for food – they just know they are hungry. Serving Our Kids aims to feed them.”
Dale Darcas, executive director of Serving Our Kids, agrees. “It’s heartbreaking that weekends are such a scary time for kids who don’t have enough food to eat on Saturday and Sunday, so we’re excited to kick off this new initiative,” he said. “There are several easy and affordable ways for individuals, families, businesses, organizations and clubs to join us, and also challenge their peers and competitors to get involved.”
Fall Food Flash has a variety of sponsorship, partnership and general giving opportunities covering financial donations and in-kind contributions. Many of the volunteer and participation opportunities are particularly beneficial for company and organization team-building and community service projects.
Some Fall Food Flash components include:
• Apple Bank – Purchase a bank for $10 and fill it with coins to be picked up by or returned to Serving Our Kids.
• Sponsor a School – Contribute to designated school’s weekend food bags needs for $1,000.
• Corporate Dress Down Day – Employees come to work in casual clothing and make a charitable donation to Serving Our Kids or the Apple Bank for the privilege.
• Centennial Toyota Golf Tournament – Sponsor and/or play in the eighth annual fundraising links tourney on Saturday, Nov. 9 at Stallion Mountain Golf Club.
• Thanksgiving “No Empty Plate” Campaign – Providing kids with double food bags over the Thanksgiving holiday and weekend.
• Virtual Grocery Store – Shop at the Serving Our Kids Online Grocery Store to purchase needed food items that are sent home with children at school each Friday for the weekend.
Existing Serving Our Kids activities that are part of Fall Food Flash encompass volunteering, organizing a food drive, dropping off non-perishable food and/or donating funds at https://servingourkids.org/donations/. Personal care items also are welcome.
Some of these activities include:
• Preparation Wednesdays – Volunteers gather inventory from shelves and count and sort food items in preparation for bagging.
• Bagging Assembly Thursdays – Beginning at 6 p.m., volunteers work together in an assembly line to fill bags for delivery.
• Delivery Day Fridays – Volunteers hand-deliver the weekend bags to designated kids at school. Some schools allow direct interaction with students under school counselor supervision; some schools provide other delivery options.
The Serving Our Kids warehouse in Henderson serves as the distribution center and site for volunteer activities. It is located at 121 Industrial Park Road, Suite 110. For more information, donations and volunteering, visit http://www.servingourkids.org or call 702-358-1056.
Food insecurity in American children affects more than 1 in 10 households, and is even worse for children in households headed by single mothers (3 in 10) and those at or below the poverty line (almost 4 in 10).
Research shows that children who go through the day hungry are unable to learn, focus and grow. Without adequate nutrition, children have more mental health issues in addition to physical ailments. They also experience a greater number of hospitalizations and costly interventions, many of which would be unnecessary with proper nutrition.
“Helping children before adverse medical and mental health conditions develop can make a huge impact on a child’s well-being and can mean dramatic healthcare savings for society as a whole,” said Darcas. ”Help Serving Our Kids feed our children.”
About Serving Our Kids Foundation
Serving our Kids Foundation is dedicated to feeding and serving the needs of Clark County children. While there are governmental programs and other organizations that provide children in need with breakfast and lunch on weekdays during school, weekends can be an issue. Since 2012, Serving Our Kids has stepped in to fill the weekend nutrition gap of vulnerable kids and now assists 3,500 children, grades K-8, in 70 schools who would otherwise go hungry. Referrals for weekend food bags are up 27 percent over last year, but the actual number of kids needing weekend nutrition assistance is estimated between 8,000 to 10,000. The nonprofit organization mobilizes the strength of community volunteers and donations. In addition to non-perishable food items, personal care items also are collected. For information, donations, volunteering and partnership opportunities, visit http://www.servingourkids.org or call 702-358-1056.
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