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8:14 AM Tue, Sept. 18th

Safety Net: Weekend Family Food program keeps kids from going hungry

"Safety Net" is a new Sunday column written by local agency staff members who work with struggling individuals or families.

There are no easy answers.

Many people want a simple solution to eliminate poverty:

• If the minimum wage were higher

• If living-wage jobs were plentiful

• If we had more affordable housing

• If public transit covered our communities

• If people had access to comprehensive healthcare

• If mental health care were readily available

• If we had excellent schools and universal access to higher education.

With 19 percent of Arizonans below the poverty line, we need to attack poverty from many fronts. It takes a community-wide response to help people become self-sufficient.

And that's why the Coalition for Compassion and Justice exists.

A comprehensive poverty-relief center, CCJ has three main programs and 16 projects to close the gaps. Let's just take one of them - Weekend Family Food. More than 320 preschool children in the Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley areas receive a weekly bag of food that helps supplement their family's weekend meals. School staff members identify them. If you've heard of the Hungry Kids programs, this program serves similar preschoolers.

Dozens of reasons explain why young children ages 0-5 don't have enough to eat on the weekends, but there are three critical outcomes:

• A hungry child can't learn effectively.

• By the time a child is 5 years old, his or her brain is completely developed.

• Being hungry regularly from age 0 to 5 guarantees a child less potential than a child with adequate nutrition.

We can't wait to solve the problems to feed children. That's why CCJ will have programs like Weekend Family Food until no child is hungry.

At an average cost of $5 per child, providing bags of food to 320 or more children costs $1,600 or more each week. CCJ is a Qualifying Charitable Organization for the Arizona Tax Credit for the Working Poor.

When you donate to CCJ, you receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit on your Arizona state income tax return. If you are a single tax payer, you can receive a charitable tax credit of up to $200. Couples filing jointly can receive up to a $400 credit on their tax return. Talk to your tax professional about this opportunity, and find out more about CCJ at www.yavapaiCCJ.org or by calling 928-445-8382.