The Beneficial Effects of Kids’ Food Basket By: Skylar Vander Jagt

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The importance of food and its nourishment for every living thing has always been a key factor to success; however, more and more children have now come to lack these key necessities. There are over a million people today who continue to suffer from a lack of healthy food and the problem only seems to be getting worse. However, there has been a recent realization that a lack of food, especially for young and learning children, is prohibiting their learning and concentration skills. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, for example, also explains that when the children’s psychological needs (their needs for food, water, warmth, and rest) cannot be met- especially if the children do not have the basic items, such as food- there is a lack of concentration and participation in class. Therefore, Kids’ Food Basket was started for this very reason, to stop hunger. Amy Baas, KFB Coordinator at North Godwin Elementary, explains that “Kids’ Food Basket gives nutritious foods to students who may leave school and not have any food or any healthy food at home to eat.”

  Beginning in 2002, The Kids’ Food Basket organization first started serving the children in the community after Mary Hoodhood, the founder,  noticed a group of kids picking through the trash. Over the years, this organization has taken root and continues to spread throughout the community, even sparking the interest of different schools, too. Since 2018, the Grandville High School’s Kids’ Food Basket Club has been working to both spread awareness, as well as help out KFB in small ways through bag decorating or cracker repackaging. 

Right now, there are numerous events and opportunities for students to get involved with to support KFB. The club at Grandville High School has begun to reach out and explore new ways to promote and support KFB through easy and simple means. Paper bag decoration, for example, is a simple way to improve a child’s day. While visiting some schools where the sack suppers were given out, Jessica Schick- a general KFB Club leader- says, “The kids’ faces light up because they get food in colorful bags,” which clearly shows how important bag decoration is. There are also food drives to help reduce the cost of food that needs to be purchased for these suppers. Furthermore, while the KFB Club at the High School is unable to do a fundraiser/drive all on their own, they are able to partner with the school’s library. Their first partnership actually began this semester with its event called “Snacks & Stories,” where both students and teachers were able to donate food, like Cheerios and raisins, to help out KFB. On February 19, the KFB Club plans on using this food to make a trail mix, which will go out directly to the kids who need it the very next day. In addition to these events, there is also cracker repackaging at school and onsite events at the organization itself. This year, the KFB Club has dedicated itself to providing four volunteers, one Thursday of each month, to go onsite and help out, too.    

Through joint efforts, both the club and organization not only are able to benefit hungry children, but also the participants, workers, volunteers, and anyone who is involved because new connections and happier emotional states are beneficial, as well. A lot of times, when something involves helping others it also makes that person feel good about themselves, too. Mrs. Bridges, the advisor and psychology teacher at the high school, explains that “there is always a benefit from helping others.” If a person’s acts of kindness are compared to their overall emotions, these are the people who are usually the happiest. Therefore, the Kids’ Food Basket organization, as well as the club at school, promotes these acts of kindness, which in turn creates a happier team of volunteers, as well as happy children.   

In addition, KFB and its club at the High School are promoting the use of creativity, another benefit of helping out KFB. The creativity of its participating members is improved through using a creative outlet “when decorating and writing inspirational quotes on bags, making posters, and coming up with events,” explains Reagan Vander Jagt, a club member. The leadership team even has to use their creative skills to come up with ways for the club to run smoothly, as well as create fun events, like Snacks & Stories, so they’re creativity improves through their practice and participation within the club itself.     

Furthermore, through helping KFB with its goals to help stop child hunger, the volunteers and club members meet new people, connect more with friends, and strengthen connections throughout the entire community. Hanah Olson, another KFB Club leader, says, “There’s a lot of people [she] wouldn’t have known beforehand. Just having everyone come together to help the community is a wonderful thing to see.” Both the community and the club members have started to support each other. Jessica Schick also agrees by explaining that when she invited friends to join, those friends invited more friends, and it has continued to grow. Mrs. Bridges testifies, too, that she often “notices kids working together, talking to each other. And some of them know each other already, but most don’t.” When the community is brought together new connections are formed. Even now, coordinators from other schools are starting to interact with each other by having competitions to raise food and even just to see what other places are doing to support KFB in general. Therefore, communication skills, compassion, and a strong realization that helping others is important, are strengthened, which beneficially brings the community together. 

Overall, the KFB organization and even the club at school are making a huge impact, even if they are done in small ways, like bag decorating and cracker repackaging. All of the small things add up and create large and impactful differences in the lives of hungry children. Currently, at North Godwin Elementary School, an estimated 95% of their students are from a low social and economic class, where they get free school lunches and they are provided with 250 sack suppers from KFB each day for the students when they go home. Shown from just one school, KFB reaches many students throughout the community and really strives to create a healthy supper. But, the word “healthy” is a word that many young kids dislike. Since this is the case a lot of these students are picky eaters and sometimes dislike the food items they recieve or they grow tired of the monotony, except for the meat sticks. However, one thing’s for certain, these kids do have the ability and opportunity to receive food at the end of the day because of KFB’s outreach and efforts to help as many students as possible by fighting child hunger.    

While child hunger continues to grow, steps must be taken to diminish these numbers. It can start with something as little and as simple as decorating a bag or donating food to Kids’ Food Basket. Anyone is able to participate and there’s volunteer opportunities for all ages, the only requirement that is needed is to dedicate time and have a willingness to help children. Even for the club, no great grades or athletic ability is needed, it’s just a place for kids to come and be themselves, especially for those who might feel like they don’t have another niche. According to Mrs. Bridges, “If we want a healthy society, it starts with making sure we have healthy children.”

To get involved in Grandville High School’s KFB Club, email Mrs. Bridges (kbridges@gpsbulldogs.org) or to participate onsite go to https://www.kidsfoodbasket.org/get-involved/find-your-opportunity/ and sign up to help. 

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