Feeding the Mind and the Body
Delicious and nutritious!
Joyeuse (left) and Achol (right) feed their minds and their bodies.
The barrier to solid performance in school and a happy, healthy home life can oftentimes be as basic as a rumbling tummy.
See a problem? Fix it. Simple, right? Often, that is how a program or service is started at our Pima County Library. But sometimes a problem seems insurmountable; it seems so big that it can’t possibly be fixed. One such issue is hunger.
That didn’t stop Caitlin, a young librarian at our Santa Rosa Library, from making a difference. She noticed that children in after-school programs were unfocused, irritable, sluggish, and unable to be engaged in learning. These children frequently commented on their hunger. Achol, a little girl who attended Library programs at the time, was one such case.
The Santa Rosa Library is located in one of Pima County’s poorest areas, with high unemployment rates and a high percentage of
refugee families just starting their lives in the United States. Children would arrive at the Library with empty tummies, often having eaten little during the day, with no prospects of a meal that evening. Hunger is widely recognized as the most frequent barrier to productive participation in school. And Caitlin knew from speaking with Achol and many of her friends at the library that while they received free lunches at school, outside of that, they were frequently forced to simply go without until their next school lunch.
Caitlin asked herself, “How can I fix this?” She realized that childhood hunger is an enormous issue, but she wondered: Was there some way to help these kids here, at the Santa Rosa Library? So Caitlin created Snack Attack. Caitlin formed a partnership between the Library and the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, who provided fresh produce for Santa Rosa Library’s kids to enjoy.
The program was a success-- with kids flocking to eat their fill of nutritious and delicious fruits and vegetables, while also learning why it is so important to choose healthy food options when given the choice. Santa Rosa's Public Health Nurse gave health and hygiene lessons every other week. Kids also learned how to grow plants from seeds available for free from the Library’s seed library. By the end of the program's first month, there were 200 kids signed up, eagerly waiting for their after school meals twice a week.
Healthy snacks are cause for celebration -- and food for thought!
“Some of them had never seen an apricot,” Caitlin tells us. “It was so exciting to watch them as they enjoyed this fruit that tasted every bit as good as candy to them.”
Full tummies also resulted in visibly improved quality in the interactions between children and in program participation. The Library’s Homework Help tutors reported that their students were much more engaged in their lessons after their hunger needs were met.
When did Caitlin realize the program was a success? “When Achol asked if she could take some fruit home to her mother, who was also hungry,” she says.
The Library has expanded the Snack Attack program to several branches, but decreased funding to food providers has resulted in significant cuts to the program. The Pima Library Foundation is working to secure reliable ongoing funding for this program so that it can be expanded to all branches with need.