It’s Hard to Learn When You’re Hungry…

In many Sunnyvale classrooms, stomachs are grumbling. Last spring, local teachers and principals let us know that students were coming to school hungry on Monday mornings. Working families were making difficult choices as they juggled bills to pay, and food often ran out on the weekends. Sunnyvale Community Services worked with school staff and parents to pilot the Weekend School Food Program.

One in four children in Silicon Valley are “food insecure”—not knowing if they will have food every day. Numerous studies show that children who live in food insecure households have worse performance in math and reading, lose school days because of illness, repeat grades, and have overall lower academic achievement scores due to lack of nutrition (AAP Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight).

One in four children in Silicon Valley are “food insecure”—not knowing if they will have food every day.

Addressing Food Insecurity

In our role as the safety net in Sunnyvale, we have seen continued growth in the frequency of families coming for food assistance. Second Harvest Food Bank’s survey of 800 of their local clients in 2015 showed that 66% have had to choose between paying for food or paying for other necessities such as utilities, housing, medicine, or transportation.

According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), poor nutrition contributes to poor health, leading to increased diabetes risk, increased obesity risk, and increased risk of heart disease. It’s ironic that food insecurity and poverty also puts low-income children at risk of obesity, due to lack of access to healthy, affordable foods, fewer opportunities for physical activity, cycles of food deprivation and over-eating, high levels of stress, and limited access to health care.

In response to this growing need for healthier food, we now have nutritious food distributions every weekday. Over 50% of the food we distribute is healthy produce and 20% is lean proteins. A family of four who participates in all eligible food programs can receive healthy food valued at $396.00 each month, helping to close the food security gap and increase nutrition.

We have recruited hundreds of new volunteers and raised funds to fuel our food program growth. Thankfully, the community has responded with their time and their financial support.

Marie Bernard
Executive Director, Sunnyvale Community Services