Originally Published: July 7, 2015 4:55 p.m.
DEWEY-HUMBOLDT - Carl Brown doesn't believe any child in this region should ever go hungry.
Not only is an empty stomach a nutritional and health issue, it is also an academic concern as children who don't have enough to eat are less likely to succeed in school, according to national and local education leaders.
"I'm a believer that you have to help kids get a good start,' said Brown, now retired from serving nine years as executive director for what is now known as Community Counts. "If kids are hungry, they don't learn. If they don't have that (nutrition), the path to helping a good kid be a good student becomes problematic."
That is what motivated Brown to become the fundraising coordinator for the 10-school Humboldt Unified School District Hungry Kids Project, an all-volunteer operation of between 35 and 40 people who supply weekend meals to children identified by the school district as needing such assistance. The local project was founded by longtime civic activist Carm Staker in the 2010/11 school year.
During the school year, low-income children are able to obtain free or reduced price breakfasts and lunch at their schools. Come the weekends, those same children may not have access to healthy meals. This program is also available to homeless children, noting the Humboldt district this year served 464 such children throughout the 2014/15 school year. The year before the number was 401, Brown said.
Through the project, children receive two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners a week. Breakfast might include a box of cereal, a fruit cup or breakfast bar; lunch might be canned tuna or chicken and individually wrapped crackers or a small package of pre-cooked hotdogs with dinner to include such things as canned meats, soups and vegetables. Kid-friendly snacks are also offered in the food packs.
Prescott and Chino Valley also have Hungry Kids Projects, serving 110 and 160 students, respectively. The Humboldt District expects to average some 180 students this year, Brown said.
The project in HUSD has evolved from two schools to now all 10 schools, with the middle school and high schools operating more as a food pantry where students can come and collect the packaged foods.
For a two-week period beginning July 6, the HUSD Hungry Kids Project will be fundraising to collect as much as $30,000 to buy food. In addition, the project has received a $3,000 grant from the Arizona Community Foundation of Yavapai County. The organization also helps to solicit business donations and other grants to cover the estimated $36,000 annual cost.
In the spring, the various schools conducted food drives, and collected more than 12,000 food items, about 10,000 of which Brown said were able to be used. Other food drives are also anticipated to help generate the food supply necessary to meet the rising demand, Brown said.
Brown recalled receiving a thank-you call from a family who this year benefited from the program.
The family had experienced a financially trying year, and relied on the project to fill in the gap. The parent closed the call by saying the family no longer required such help, but hoped their portion might be able to benefit another family, he said.
"That's pretty powerful,' Brown said. "That makes it all worthwhile."
Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter@HutsonNanci Reach her at 928-445-3333 Ext. 2041 or 928-642-6809.