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Millcreek Journal

Granite Education Foundation helps reduce food insecurity with Day of Service

Sep 29, 2021 12:56PM ● By Bill Hardesty

Volunteers come together to fill student food kits at the Granite Education Foundation Day of Service. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

In memory of Sept. 11, 2001, the Granite Education Foundation (GEF) partnered with various organizations to sponsor a day of service by putting together various student food kits on the 20th anniversary of the date.

"We have about 400 or so volunteers who are coming in working for an hour, and they're so fun. They're enthusiastic. They try to work so fast, to get these kits filled," Kim Oborn, program coordinator of Food Programs, said.

"This happens all the time, not just on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 because this warehouse is full of food and volunteers to help kids who are facing food insecurity in our state," Gov. Spencer Cox said. "And, as you see, we have dozens and dozens of volunteers right now. Some who have already been here and more will be coming throughout the day. This type of effort has been replicated all across the state and all across the nation as we come together in a day of service." 

Food kits

The GEF provides three types of food kits to students in the Granite School District. 

A student weekend kit provides one child three or four meals. Each bag has equally prepared microwavable meals, snacks and drinks.

"The great thing about this option is that they are lightweight. They are easily distributed," Oborn said. "People like them for the convenience. We give a lot during the long breaks like winter break or spring break."

Another type is the dinner kit. They feed a family of four for one meal. These kits respect different food choices since not everyone eats SpaghettiOs.

"These kits take on an international focus," Oborn said. "For example, we have chicken curry with mango or rice and beans with tomatoes and chili powder."

The third kit is a snack kit. These stay at school. They are used if a child is hungry or maybe they need a little extra food. They are popular with high school students. They come by the pantry to get a kit if they are staying for practice or after school.

GEF set a goal to put together 7,000 student weekend kits, 5,000 dinner kits and 3,600 snack kits. 

"On average, we're sending out 3,200 student weekend kits a month. So, you know that 7,000 may not last too long," Oborn said.

"Saturday was a huge success! At our donation and distribution center event, a total of 13,086 food kits were completed (about 4,700 student weekend kits, 4,000 dinner kits, and 4,300 snack kits)," Justin Anderson, chief marketing officer, said. "But while that makes it appear that we didn't quite meet our goal but when you factor in all of the events that were happening at other locations throughout the day, we far exceeded our goal."

Food insecurity

Granite School District is the second-largest district in the state, with more than 64,000 students. However, 54% of those students or about 35,000 students live at or below the poverty level. In addition, 70% of Utah refugees live within the district boundaries.

This means that three and one-fourth out of every five students are food insecure. The USDA defines food insecurity as the "lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle." Or, stated more simply, you do not know where your next meal is coming from. 

Numerous studies show how food insecurity results in multiple health, development, social and academic effects.

According to the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (Pediatrics), "Compared to rates had they not been food insecure, children in food-insecure household had rates of lifetime asthma diagnosis and depressive symptoms that were 19.1% and 27.9% higher, rates of forgone medical care that were 179.8% higher, and rates of emergency department use that were 25.9% higher. "

In addition, the Feeding America website states, "Sadly, hunger may impact a child's school performance. Research demonstrates that children from families who are not sure where their next meal may come from are more likely to have lower math scores and repeat a grade, among other challenges."

Governor's remarks

Besides thanking the volunteers, Gov. Cox talked about his 9/11 experience.

He and his family had just moved to the "scary big city," and 9/11 occurred on the second day of his new job. Cox talked about walking down streets. Strangers would stop and ask if he was doing OK. 

"If a stranger stops you now, you probably get nervous," Cox said.

Cox went on to say that many people had the same experience. Feeling hopeless, many of them stood in long lines to give blood.

"No one cared if you were a Republican or a Democrat. No one cared if you had a red shirt or blue shirt on," Cox said. "That stuff didn’t matter then, and it shouldn't matter now. Unfortunately, it does.…We need to recommit ourselves to be better. So that we get off Facebook and stop calling each other names, but we will actually work together on common issues."

When asked why there is division today, First Lady Abby Cox said, "I think, instead of connecting like this, serving one another, we are connecting on Facebook groups and trying to hate each other. And we're not in places like this where we're serving one another. Where we're connecting through our differences and not using our differences to hurt one another."