Lexington Food Justice Podcast #13

Childhood Hunger

The topic for our September 29th show was Childhood Hunger. As we continued our focus on hunger and poverty in our community during"Hunger Action Month”.

Katie Landon is the Youth Services & Nutrition Manager for God's Pantry Food Bank. As we learned last week with Mike Halligan – Executive Director of God’s Pantry – The organization's MISSION is to reduce hunger in Kentucky through community cooperation making the best possible use of all available resources. So this week, we invite Katie to speak with us about the Programs God's Pantry provide that specifically addresses the needs of the children in our community who experience hunger.

We were also joined by DeBraun Thomas, a Community Activist and Local Musician. DeBraun spearheads the Take Back Cheapside Movement. This is a "coalition of citizens from Lexington, Ky committed to uniting our city's official history with the memories of all its people."

If you've been following our shows this month, you'll know we’ve also been discussing how poverty & hunger are inextricably intertwined. And how food justice and social justice are intertwined, as well. And one organization that really brought attention to this connection – particularly as it pertained to childhood hunger was the Black Panther Party. So we invited DeBraun to help us understand this historical perspective.

Very fascinating show. Hope you enjoy it too 👇🏽 

Listen to our Podcast!

Here's a Recap

Childhood Hunger Programs

Backpack Program

  • For children who rely on resources such as free or reduced-priced school lunch during the school year. The Backpack Program is designed to meet needs of hungry children when other resources not available (weekends and school vacations).
  • Backpacks are filled with food that children take home on weekends.
  • Food is child-friendly, nonperishable, easily consumed & vitamin fortified.
  • Backpacks are discreetly distributed to children on last day before weekend or vacation.
  • Concept developed at the Arkansas Rice Depot in Little Rock after a school nurse asked for help because hungry students coming to her with stomach aches and dizziness. The local food bank began providing children with groceries in non-descript backpacks to carry home.
  • Feeding America approved the Backpack Program as an official national program of the network in 2006.
  • More than 145 Feeding America members operate more than 3,600 Backpack Programs and collectively serve more than 190,000 children each year.
  • In FY 17, God’s Pantry Food Bank partnered with 18 different sites to provide 31,017 backpacks to children in need!!

Summer Feeding Programs

  • During the school year in Central & Eastern KY, thousands of children receive free or reduced-priced meals through the National School Lunch & Breakfast Program. When school is out during the summer, however. Only a few receive free or reduced-price meals through USDA Summer Food Service Program. This gap is the result of various barriers experienced only during summer (e.g., lack of access to meal sites, insufficient program awareness, and limited resources when schools closed). This is particularly true for the rural areas of KY.
  • God’s Pantry operates several programs. And partners with other organizations, during summer that seek to close this gap. These programs help meet needs of low-income children and their families who face hunger in summer by providing them with nutritious meals and snacks when school not in session.
  • The Food Bank summer programs include Backpack Programs, School Pantry Programs and meal programs like Kids Cafe®.
  • When school is out of session, community meal programs make up a majority of food distributed. These Programs typically receive reimbursement through USDA Summer Food Service Program for meals provided to eligible children. Last year, the Feeding America network served 5.7 million meals to more than 178,000 hungry children through the Summer Food Service Program, which represents a 15% growth in meals distributed from the previous summer.

Kids Cafe

  • Kids Cafe Programs provide free meals and snacks to low-income children through variety of existing community locations where children congregate (e.g., Boys and Girls Clubs, churches or public schools). In addition to providing meals to hungry kids, all Kids Cafe Programs offer a safe place. Where under supervision of trustworthy staff, a child can get involved in educational, recreational and social activities that draw on existing community programs and often include family members.
  • Katie shared with us that the Kids Cafe Program here in Fayette County started after some children were found breaking into some houses looking for food.

School Based Pantry

  • Mission: To alleviate child hunger in America through the provision of food to children and their families at school. School Based Pantries are located on grounds of a school intended to provide a more readily accessible source of food assistance to low-income students and families.
  • God’s Pantry Food Bank opened their first School Based Pantry Program in March 2015.

For More Info about God's Pantry

History of the black panther party

The Black Panther Party (BPP) has an alt-history (let’s say) – one where for some conjures images of beret wearing angry revolutionists with big afros and guns. But what often gets lost in this haze is the many Programs the BPP created to serve the people in the communities they sought to mobilize. DeBraun provided a history of the Movement. And offered insight into how the Party helped address childhood hunger and other social injustices during their time.

  • The BPP started in Oakland, California (1968). And had its headquarters there too.
  • Founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. The BPP was a manifestation of the Black Power movement that was strongly influenced late Malcolm X and the assassination of Martin Luther King.
  • This time was ripe for revolutionary thoughts. With the Watts riots and the continued poverty and injustice facing people of color -- despite the passage of seminal civil rights legislation.
  • The BP was an outgrowth of the civil rights movement. But a departure from the nonviolent civil disobedience.
  • The BPP began as citizens’ patrol to monitor police and protect the black community from police violence. A familiar theme and common threat, both then and now. The use of guns gained attention when the group marched into CA state legislature fully armed.
  • DeBraun shared that he grew up in San Francisco. One of his teachers who was a member of the BPP and present at the CA state legislature event. And spoke of his experience. Noting that media accounts exaggerated the actions and conduct of the BPP.
  • But BPP was far more than those media images. The Party brought a new message of self-determination. Mobilized underserved and marginalized communities for economic justice. The message caught on.
  • The Party established many Programs that are models (if not exact copies) of current social services. More that 60 Serve the People programs: Free clothing and shoes, medical services -- including drug and alcohol awareness -- legal aid education, and what was thought to be some of first true early childhood education programs in nation, preceding Head Start.
  • These Programs quickly spread to black communities across country. And resonated with people tired of waiting to be saved or treated with equity.

The Breakfast for Children Program

  • One of first organized school breakfast programs. Funding came from donations within the communities being served (local stores, churches, and groceries).
  • The BPP believed in the importance of education -- and that kids showed up at school full and ready to learn.
  • The Breakfast for Children Program gave the BPP an anchor to talk about something that seldom made headlines in America -- hunger and poverty. Giving recognition to the millions of people living below subsistence: welfare mothers, poor white people, Mexican-Americans, Chicano peoples, Latinos, and black people.
  • By end of 1969, the BPP was serving full free breakfasts (milk, bacon, eggs, grits, and toast) to 20,000 school aged children in 19 cities around the country, and in 23 local affiliates every school day!!
  • But the image and focus on self-determination drew attention of then FBI chief, J. Edgar Hoover who singled out BPP as national hate group. And targeted the breakfast program as an act of subversion. In May of 1969 Hoover sent a memo to all FBI offices that read:
"The BCP (Breakfast for Children Program) promotes at least tacit support for the Black Panther Party among naive individuals and, what is more distressing, it provides the BPP with a ready audience composed of highly impressionable youths. Consequently, the BCP represents the best and most influential activity going for the BPP and, as such, is potentially the greatest threat to efforts by authorities to neutralize the BPP and destroy what it stands for.” The Black Panthers: Revolutionaries, Free Breakfast Pioneers, November 4, 2015
  • Hoover targeting the Breakfast Program was the beginning of the end, so to speak. Even though the Members consulted nutritionists to make sure the meals served were balanced and of high quality. Even though they were careful to have the necessary permits from the health and fire depts for kitchens and halls where meals were served. These Programs were regular targets of local officials. Sadly, the children were caught in the middle.
  • After the BPP and its programs were summarily dismantled, the Breakfast for Children program found new life with the establishment of the School Breakfast Program offered by the USDA -- which now feeds nearly 13 million students every single day. Though there is no mention of this history on the USDA website.

For More Info about the Black Panther Party

Hunger's Impact Academic Performance

During our September 15th show, Mike & Malcolm discussed the relationship between hunger and academic performance with children who experience hunger. Mike also discussed how the timing of families who need the services of God's Pantry often coincides with the last week before receiving their SNAP benefits.

Coincidentally, my co-host Ben heard this piece on NPR's Morning Edition (September 21, 2017) that examines these concepts. And we continued this conversation on September 29th.


Up Next (October 13th)

Many THANKS again to Katie Landon, Youth Services & Nutrition Manager for God's Pantry Food Bank. And DeBraun Thomas -- Community Activist leading the Take Back Cheapside Movement and Local Musician!

Please tune in to our next show on October 13th, 10 - 11 am, 93.9 FM WLXU Lexington Community Radio.

With Ashley C. Smith and Trevor Claiborn. Creators of "Black Soil: Our Better Nature" - A Program designed to confront the inequities and disparities faced by Black farmers in KY.

Because of scheduling issues, we pre-recorded our October 13th show. So we already know what a fabulous and insightful Program it will be 😉 So you'll definitely want to tune in!!