Food insecurity is a global issue and as demand grows higher and prices rise, school-aged children end up taking the brunt of the problem.
Cambria county is no exception to this as according to the hunger-relief organization, Feeding America, 1 in 5 children in the county experience food insecurity.
To combat this problem, a local organization, the Cambria County Backpack Project, is pooling together resources to provide kids with weekend meals all over the county.
So far they have distributed over 59,000 meals and partnered with over 9 school districts.
“A lot of times our families are having to choose between paying rent and buying groceries,” said Kristen Villarrial, director of the Cambria County Backpack Project. “Between paying outstanding medical bills and buying groceries, and we all know how expensive healthy groceries can be, so this program really helps our local families with that.”
Food insecurity impacts not only the physical development of a child but also their social and emotional as well as learning capabilities.
Feeding America states that children that are faced with hunger experience larger risks of diseases such as asthma or anemia and have higher chances of hospitalizations. They also experience more problems at school and in social situations.
“Food insecurity really affects children in their learning environment,” said Villarrial. “We see increased problems with focusing. We see a lot of absence due to food insecurity, tardiness, chronic sickness, behavior issues and the ability to really focus and do their classwork. A nourished child is much better able to learn in the classroom.”
If you want to help children facing food insecurity in Cambria county you can do so by volunteering to fill backpacks, sponsoring a child, or even organizing a fundraiser.