The problem can be hard to see, but that doesn’t make it any less real: One out of four children in Dallas is food insecure. That’s 165,000 children in Dallas County who are unsure where their next meal will come from.
Jan Pruitt, the President and CEO of the North Texas Food Bank, sees the damaging effects of child hunger – which she calls a “hidden problem” – every day.
Children arrive at school lethargic and unready to learn. “Kids can’t excel, can’t learn, can’t graduate from high school, and we know all the problems that exist if they don’t,” says Pruitt.
For 26 years, Pruitt’s working life has been devoted to providing meals for North Texas children and families in need. Established in 1982, the North Texas Food Bank provides over 90,000 meals each day. It runs a number of programs for children, like Food 4 Kids, which provides backpacks full of nutritious nonperishable food to more than 11,000 school students – who do not have enough food to eat at home over the weekend – to take home every Friday afternoon.
Through its Neighborhood Builders program, Bank of America has supported the North Texas Food Bank with leadership training and unrestricted grants. Bank of America’s employees contribute hundreds of hours of volunteer time each year.
At the annual Neighborhood Builders leadership conference, “we got to meet not only food banks from around the country, we got to meet other nonprofits, too,” says Pruitt. “And there were so many things we learned that we could put in place here at the food bank. When you have been doing something for 25 years and all of a sudden you start thinking about how you do your business differently, I would call that transformational change.”
One such change came in the form of the North Texas Food Bank’s new three-year strategic plan, Rethink Hunger. The goal of Rethink Hunger is not just to get meals to people in need, but to take care to ensure that those meals are healthy and nutritious.
The idea is to be smarter and stronger about fighting hunger, helping alleviate one serious issue without exacerbating another: the nation’s growing child obesity crisis. That’s why the North Texas Food Bank counts only healthy meals towards its organizational goals.
“They’re not just focused on feeding people, they’re focused on feeding them nutritious meals,” says Richard Holt, Dallas market president, Bank of America. “Hunger is a real problem in the United States. It’s a real problem in North Texas. It’s something that needs to be addressed head on and that’s one of the things the North Texas Food Bank addresses on a daily basis.”
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