Emma stepped off the bus at 5 o’clock, as usual, after an hour ride home from school. It was hot; seems like summer already, she thought. Waiting for the bus each day and transferring to a second bus was no fun, especially with the occasional strange rider who always seemed to be angry, but her parents felt it was important for her to attend this particular school. She actually loved her school, her teachers, getting to play the violin with her orchestra – school was kind of fun actually, though she would never admit that to her friends. Her stomach started grumbling. I don’t know why we eat lunch so early, seems more like breakfast, she thought, as she began her short walk home.
It would be nice to live near school but she was old enough now to understand that both her parents worked hard to afford their nice little house in her neighborhood where she had some good friends anyway. Emma arrived home and took out her house key without knocking – she knew both her parents worked long hours – sometimes dad didn’t get home until after dark. “Man I’m hungry, I wonder what’s in the fridge?” she said out loud, to no one. Ugh, she was faced with only a six-pack of diet Coke and a crushed bag of those spicy Doritos, which she did not like. She hoped her mom would bring home some hot food when she got home. Often, she was just too busy with work and chores to cook. Sometimes her dad would grill hot dogs on the weekend, and she would pile it with ketchup and cheese…mmm, she wished she had one of those now.
She knew her friend Shanna who lived down the block usually got home from school before her so she thought she would go over there and see if she wanted to head to the convenience store oddly named the My-T-Mart. Mom told her she was supposed to do her homework when she got home, but right now she needed a snack. She had no money, but sometimes if she and Shanna were nice to the owner, Mr. Hekam, and dropped a few hints that they were hungry, he would give them something. He didn’t seem to mind them hanging around the store. She especially loved those fruit smoothies he kept in the refrigerator, but why were they so expensive? Even if she had the money, her mother would scold her anyway for spending it all on a drink….
Fact or fiction? This story is fiction, but some iteration of it plays out across the city every school day. No, here in Washington DC we don’t have an epidemic of people starving in the streets, thanks in large part to the myriad of charitable organizations and their generous staff and volunteers who provide for the poor, homeless and disadvantaged. Yet, there remains a significant nutritional gap among our school-aged children. Do you know any DC school teachers? Ask them about it, they will tell you the stories.
Two Stoddert Elementary school parents – Alysa MacClellan and Lucie Leblois in Glover Park – along with Krista Weymouth who has a child at Eaton Elementary have teamed up to address this issue. They formed DC Food Project last year to provide two programs – Share Table and the Weekend Bag Program to help “food insecure” households fill a much needed nutrition gap. According to an article in the Washington City Paper, one in seven households in DC experience such food insecurity regularly. The initiatives begun by Alysa, Lucie and Krista are so simple yet so effective! Share Table provides tables where students may leave uneaten healthy food (that would otherwise be discarded) for other students to pick up as needed. The Weekend Bag Program provides bags chock full of food discretely placed in the backpacks of those children with a need. While these solutions are simple and effective, they are not easy to manage by just three people, who have expanded the program now to 12 schools. They need your help. Please volunteer or donate to DC Food Project so they may continue these important programs. Your participation does make a difference.