ConAgra Foods Foundation Puts the Here in Child Hunger Ends Here
OMAHA, Neb., December 18, 2013 /3BL Media/ - ConAgra Foods and the ConAgra Foods Foundation are raising the stakes to build a model to put a dent in child hunger across the nation, starting right here in the Omaha metro area.
Statistics show that more than one in five kids in the U.S. live in households that don’t have consistent access to food throughout the year, meaning thousands of kids in the Omaha-metro area still don’t know from where or how they will get their next meal. As part of the Child Hunger Ends Here campaign, the Foundation has initiated a plan to mobilize the metro area toward becoming a place where no child worries about hunger, and the community collaborates to ensure that all kids get the nourishment they need, starting with the most important meal of the day, breakfast.
“Food is the fuel to learn, play, grow, and be healthy,” said ConAgra Foods CEO Gary Rodkin. “To put it in the simplest terms, good nutrition is a basic human need that is at the root of hopes and dreams for the future. As a food company, we feel particularly obligated and privileged to lead this fight against hunger and provide good nutrition for kids and families.”
ConAgra Foods’ headquarters is in downtown Omaha, Neb., centered in the tri-county area of Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie (which includes Council Bluffs, Iowa), where consistent with the national statistics, more than one in every five children does not have consistent access to food throughout the year. This equates to more than 30,000 children who are considered food insecure, a status most commonly referred to as hunger.
The Foundation aims to put the here in the Child Hunger Ends Here campaign. Over the next three years, the Foundation will invest more than $4 million in metro community organizations and non-profits with a goal of reducing food insecurity by 10 percent, to bring the number of food-insecure kids well below the national average.
This is a learning and collaborative process, and Rodkin will be in the classroom today at Kellom Elementary to visit with students during breakfast as part of a community partnership effort with Omaha Public Schools. National participation in the federally reimbursed School Breakfast Program, including Omaha, is much lower than the National School Lunch Program. Within OPS, about 74 percent of students qualify for free-or-reduced lunch programs; this has increased by almost 20 percentage points over the past 10 years. At Kellom Elementary, 93 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
While OPS offers free breakfast today, only 38 percent of students take part. According to the Food Research Action Center, Nebraska is 49th out of the 50 states for breakfast participation, even though hunger is as profound in Nebraska as in other states. Part of the $4 million commitment will go to provide grant cash incentives to OPS schools to implement alternative breakfast programs, including Grab-N-Go or after the bell breakfast.
With Grab-N-Go, students pick up their breakfast at the school on their way to the classroom and eat it in class during the first few minutes of the day. Grab-N-Go has shown an increase in the number of kids getting the nutrition they need to learn. Eating breakfast also leads to higher attendance, reduced absenteeism, improved focus and more1.
"This is a special community partnership,” said Mark Evans, superintendent of Omaha Public Schools. “We focus every day on making a difference for our students. To help make that happen, we need to ensure our students have the energy they need for effective learning. The ConAgra Foods Foundation approached us about getting students access to a free breakfast on a regular basis so that they don't have to worry about being hungry and are ready to learn. We greatly appreciate this team effort."
Child Nutrition Programs – breakfast and lunch – are one of five elements critical to significantly reducing food insecurity, according to nationally recognized food insecurity expert, economist and University of Illinois professor Dr. Craig Gundersen. Gunderson is advising ConAgra Foods on the Child Hunger Ends Here – Omaha metro project to ensure all partners benefit from the latest thinking and practices as they learn and work together to build a long-term solution to child hunger.
The other four elements that evidence shows will reduce food insecurity include: low-cost food, food banks for emergency supply, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, a.k.a., food stamps) and budgeting skills.
“Food is critical, but we know it takes more than food to fight hunger,” said Rodkin. “Our intent is to rally the community to join the fight, and to address food insecurity through all five critical elements. The ultimate objective is to create systems to prevent families from becoming food insecure.”
The year-one investment of $1.5 million from the ConAgra Foods Foundation includes recipients beyond OPS, including:
- Hunger-Free Heartland and Food Bank for the Heartland, where the objective is to increase the number of after-school and summer feeding sites, as well as family enrollment in SNAP.
- Creighton Financial Hope Collaborative, which will use the funding to increase the number of sites where people in need can gain access to budgeting skills.
- Heartland Hope Mission, Heart Ministry Center and Together Inc., the three largest food pantries in the Omaha metro area, to increase efficiency in the way they help pantry clients get what they need, from food to clothing and job training.
- Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition, which will use the funding to increase capacity to measure the impact of the five investment areas.
- United Way of the Midlands, an organization that is already in the process of assessing community needs through expert interviews and focus groups, will partner with ConAgra Foods to continue phase two of the assessment that in turn can be leveraged for year-two Child Hunger Ends Here grants.
“We invite business partners, non-profit partners, foundations, government officials, faith communities, and everyone else in the Omaha area to help us end hunger HERE—right in our own backyard,” said Rodkin. “If we can do this in Omaha, we believe we can do this across the nation. We are extremely excited and enthusiastic about the opportunity for Omaha to lead the nation in reducing food insecurity.”
ABOUT CONAGRA FOODS FOUNDATION
The ConAgra Foods Foundation, through its Nourish Today, Flourish Tomorrow platform, is dedicated to raising awareness of the nearly 16 million children in America who are at risk of hunger and don't have enough food to live active, healthful lives. For two decades, the Foundation has aggressively pursued sustainable solutions in the fight against child hunger. And the Foundation is committed to building a community of people who are passionate about ensuring that all kids have access to the food and facts they need to eat nutritiously while living balanced lifestyles and succeeding in school and life. ConAgra Foods Foundation invests in national and local partnerships with high-impact, not-for-profit organizations, such as Feeding America, that take an innovative approach to addressing needs in the core areas of hunger and nutrition education. For more information, please visit www.conagrafoodsfoundation.org or www.facebook.com/ConAgraFoodsFoundation. The ConAgra Foods Foundation is funded solely by ConAgra Foods (NYSE: CAG).
ABOUT CONAGRA FOODS
ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE: CAG) is one of North America's largest packaged food companies with branded and private branded food found in 99 percent of America’s households, as well as a strong commercial foods business serving restaurants and foodservice operations globally. Consumers can find recognized brands such as Banquet®, Chef Boyardee®, Egg Beaters®, Healthy Choice®, Hebrew National®, Hunt's®, Marie Callender's®, Orville Redenbacher's®, PAM®, Peter Pan®, Reddi-wip®, Slim Jim®, Snack Pack® and many other ConAgra Foods brands, along with food sold by ConAgra Foods under private brand labels, in grocery, convenience, mass merchandise, club and drug stores. Additionally, ConAgra Foods supplies frozen potato and sweet potato products as well as other vegetable, spice, bakery and grain products to commercial and foodservice customers. ConAgra Foods operates ReadySetEat.com, an interactive recipe website that provides consumers with easy dinner recipes and more. For more information, please visit us at www.conagrafoods.com.
1 School Nutrition Association - www.schoolnutrition.org/growingbreakfast; Share Our Strength - http://bestpractices.nokidhungry.org/school-breakfast; Food Research Action Center - http://frac.org/federal-foodnutrition-programs/school-breakfast