HONOLULU, Hawai‘i — All through September, 2019, when you visit your local Safeway store in Hawai‘i, you’ll see signs advertising the annual Hunger Is fundraiser, sponsored by the Safeway Foundation and with the support of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). When you checkout with your cashier, you’ll have the option to make a donation to Hawai‘i Appleseed Center, a leader in the fight to end hunger in Hawai‘i. Appleseed will use your generous donation exclusively to combat childhood hunger in our state by improving our state’s school breakfast participation rate.
“Less than 40 percent of Hawai‘i students who receive free or reduced-cost school lunches also receive breakfast at school, making Hawai‘i 50th in the nation for participation in this important program,” said Daniela Kittinger, Hawai‘i Appleseed Center Director of Anti-Hunger Initiatives. “School breakfast has powerful benefits to both physical health and mental growth, with cascading effects on our society at large.”
A hungry child can’t learn. Many of Hawai‘i’s families can’t afford to provide their children with a healthy breakfast every morning. Even families that are financially stable often have such busy schedules that they find it challenging to sit down with their children for a good breakfast in the morning, even though students who skip breakfast have a harder time learning. That’s why Hawai‘i Appleseed Center is committed to improving the rate of participation among students experiencing food insecurity.
In West Virginia, the top-ranked state, more than 80 percent of students involved in free and reduced-cost lunch programs also participate in breakfast programs. If our entire state were to raise our school breakfast participation rate to 70 percent, almost 17,000 more of our keiki would benefit from school breakfast, and our state would get nearly $7 million per year in additional federal funds.
These efforts have already resulted in some progress. Last year, thanks to efforts spearheaded by Hawai‘i’s First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige and the Hawai‘i Department of Education, schools across the islands piloted innovative “Breakfast After the Bell” models. These flexible, customizable models make sure that kids get a healthy meal before they start class in a way that works for them, even if they are rushed for time. This year, the leadership team plans to expand adoption of these models to 40 additional schools in high needs communities.
Part of the project also involves plans to prioritize the voices of students through video and recipe competitions, and by recruiting young people to serve on an advisory board.
A charitable program of the Safeway Foundation, the Hunger Is campaign builds awareness and raises funds in an effort to eradicate childhood hunger in America. Funds raised through Hunger Is focus on adding breakfasts in and out of school through federal nutrition programs and other means focused on combatting childhood hunger and improving other health-related outcomes. The Hunger Is campaign will run the entire month of September at all 22 Safeway stores in Hawai‘i.