This article was written by Sumair Bhimani, Director of Operations, in honor of Children’s Nutrition Month
Chocolates, chips, nachos, sodas, and fries were all types of junk food I regularly ate as a kid. My parents always emphasized the need for eating healthy foods, or at least non-junk foods, but I never listened. Children grow up on junk food and in some ways, eating junk food is an integral component of the childhood experience. While it may not be hard to believe that malnutrition can negatively affect academic performances of children, poor nutrition can also have the same effect. Although I began exercising and eating right early on as a kid, it was not until early on in high school when I realized the importance of nutrition and its effect on academic performance.
Through my place of prayer, I frequently volunteered at Hunger Busters, a nonprofit that provides an after school third-meal to children within the Dallas ISD. For many families within DISD, poverty is a prevalent issue that hinders the quality of lives for individuals and communities within the district. As a result, many parents must work multiple jobs or shifts after their children are finished with school. Because some students may not get another nutritious meal until the next day for breakfast at school, Hunger Busters provides these students with a nutritious meal often packed with a note of encouragement or positivity. Furthermore, some families may not be able to consistently provide their children any nutritious meals at all, causing children to not receive critical vitamins and minerals needed for academic success.
According to the CDC, students who participate in the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) School Breakfast Program (SBP), see an increase in academic grades, standardized test scores, school attendance, and cognitive performance. Additionally, inadequate consumption of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are associated with lower grades among students. I personally find it disheartening that children across the country, who may be no more than a 20-minute drive from where I grew up, may not have access to nutritious food. Poverty puts a strain on the lives of children and not having the means or basic nutritional needs to be able to break the cycle of poverty is an issue that must be resolved.
Until then, organizations like Hunger Busters and Just for Kidz continue providing support to children across the country. My passion for serving children led me to Just For Kidz and out of the many great programs we have, Stack the Snacks is one of the programs that personally resonates with me. It may be a while until youth food insecurity is completely resolved, but working at Just For Kidz provides me the chance to create an impact on children’s lives immediately and inspires me and kids across the country to create change in our communities.