Community Effort Keeps Kids Fed


Food for People program seeks additional support amid spiking demand, rising costs

A local program aimed at making sure all Humboldt County school kids have daily access to food is looking for more community support as it struggles to meet soaring demand while facing spiking food prices. Started in 2006 as a pilot project to serve kids at three Fortuna school sites, Food for People's Backpacks for Kids program has grown to put food into the hands of more than 650 children countywide through partnerships with 36 school sites. The program offers selected students food bags every Friday afternoon, aiming to bridge the nutrition gap many students who receive free breakfasts and lunches at school face over the weekend. Food for People Executive Director Carly Robbins says local schools do an amazing job with their nutrition programs, offering free or reduced cost breakfasts and lunches to the 60 percent of Humboldt County students who qualify. But in a county in which 20 percent of households live below the federal poverty line — $30,000 annually for a household of four — that leaves many children uncertain where regular meals will come from when school isn't in session. "All of Food for People's child nutrition programs aim to help kids when they don't have that safety net of school meals," Robbins says, adding that the nutrition programs also help educational outcomes, enabling students to arrive nourished and ready to learn at the start of the week. But Food for People is facing a near-perfect storm this year, as need for the program has risen markedly as costs continue to soar. On the need side, Robbins says local families have faced increased food insecurity for some time but things grew markedly worse in April, when COVID-19 emergency allotments through CalFresh — the state's food aid program — came to an end, meaning qualifying families saw their benefit amounts slashed by as much as $300 a month. Meanwhile, household costs continue to rise. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food prices increased by 9.9 percent in 2022 and were projected to spike another 5.9 percent this year. According to the Consumer Price Index, household costs across all categories have risen 3.7 percent over the past year. Robbins says Food for People is still crunching numbers but preliminary figures show the nonprofit's countywide food distributions have increased 25 to 40 percent since January, "a significant jump." And with more and more families struggling to make ends…



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