One of the most basic necessities of life is food. If someone has nice clothes and a decent place to live, but is malnourished, hungry or starved, his life is unbalanced. The situation is even more critical for single mothers because they have not only themselves but children to provide for. Food resources for single mothers provide avenues of assistance and creativity for those families. These resources are made available by Government agencies, private organizations, and charity groups. This article is meant to be the best compilation of food resources that single parents can take advantage of. We will keep the list updated.
…A Note About Nutrition and Children…
It is strongly felt poor nutrition can affect a child physically, socially, and cognitively, and if not addressed can spill over into adult life. The Central Virginia Food Bank (CVFB) Kids Café at http://www.cvfb.org/KidsCafe/KidsCafeContinued/tabid/86/Default.aspx reveals that studies have shown that over 12 million children suffer from food insecurity. Single mothers may not be able to provide the fruits and vegetables which supply the vitamins, minerals, fiber and trace elements their children need. This also applies to the dairy products from which calcium is obtained, so the children are likely to become anemic due to a lack of iron, the spin-off being a need for medical treatment, which places an added burden on the mother.
The studies also reveal that the nutrition kids receive is divided into thirds which cater to different areas of their development and influence scholastic achievements. The first third is said to support the child’s critical body organs, the second third goes towards his height and weight gain, while the last third builds cognitive development. Cognitive development is brain development, and that is the aim of the meals provided by the CVFB Kids Café program. Single moms are provided with the right amount of nutritious food, so that their children’s bodies and minds will be fuelled to develop into their full potential. This program also needs help from individuals, groups, and companies, to continue to make that difference in the lives of less fortunate children.
Because it’s so important for kids to get the proper nutrition, the government has stepped and implemented a variety of food resources that needy families can take advantage of if money is tight.
Government Food Resources for Needy Families
School Related Food Resources for Children
Government agencies have various programs of assistance especially targeting children in schools and childcare facilities. Single moms of low income status will likely qualify for these programs:
School Breakfast Program: This medium makes nutritious breakfasts available to children in schools, with the aim of helping them to be ready to grasp the lessons being taught, and also to promote healthy eating habits. It is administered by local school food authorities. More information is available at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/breakfast/. Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day since it breaks the night fast. Some single mothers may not be able to provide this important meal for their children, perhaps due to lack of funds or time in the mornings, especially if everyone has to leave early to commute to school or work.
National School Lunch Program: This program enables children to receive nutritious, balanced, free or low-cost lunches daily at school. It also provides an opportunity for students to practise the skills learnt in nutrition classes, by perhaps taking turns in the school canteen to help prepare the meals. As a result of this program single moms do not have to keep children at home because there is no money for lunch. Eligibility information can be obtained at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/lunch/.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP): This valuable program fulfills a need that may be beyond the means of many single mothers. Fruits and vegetables, though an essential part of good nutrition, tend to be expensive and therefore out of the reach of many low-income families. Through the FFVP school children are able to sample a variety of produce otherwise out of their reach. It also seeks to encourage healthy eating habits to combat childhood obesity, which could present another problem for single moms. Children could be assisted to snack on fruits instead of junk food. Further information about the program is available at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/ffvp/default.htm
Special Milk Program: As long as the children are not lactose intolerant, this program is a valuable resource, making milk available to children who cannot access other meal programs, or whose families cannot afford to buy milk on a regular basis. The program targets childcare institutions and schools that are not benefiting from a Federal meal program, by refunding schools for the milk they serve to children. Information on eligibility can be obtained at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/milk/.
The above services are available to students when school is in session. When the school session breaks, children still go hungry and are still in need of nutritious meals.
To continue the aid outside of school, two summer programs have been established by the Government, in which single mothers can become involved. They are:
Summer Food Service Program: Poor nutrition during the summer months may lead to poor performance and health issues when school resumes. This program aims to make food available when school is out, according to their tag line (http://www.summerfood.usda.gov/), to guard against a nutrition relapse.
Because it is an out-of-school medium, however, it requires assistance in three ways:
- Sponsors – who would be responsible for organizing the sites from which the programs would be operated. These could include local organizations that can opt to provide their own meals or contract with a food vendor for meals.
- Feeding sites – which need to be opened in several communities in order to increase children’s access to the program. Community centers and churches, for example, could work along with a sponsor to provide the physical locations for serving the food.
- Volunteers – who are needed to help transport the food, set up and clean up the sites before and after food distribution, and plan activities with the children to keep them returning and the program going.
- Seamless Summer Option:This is another avenue for communities to continue the school breakfast and lunch programs offered when school is in session. It caters to children from low-income areas who are 18 years and younger, and operates through:
- Open sites
- Restricted open sites
- Closed enrolled sites
- Migrant sites and
Other Government Food Assistance Programs
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
This Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was formerly known as the Food Stamps Program. Eligible persons now use a SNAP EBT card, which is a kind of debit card, to purchase groceries at participating stores. The foods which can be purchased through SNAP include bread, meat, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and cereals. Statistics reveal that children are the program’s largest participants, and most of them live with single parents. The amount to be received from SNAP, on average, is $673 monthly. Information on eligibility requirements is available at http://singleparents.about.com/od/financialhel1/p/groceries-with-snap.htm.
Women, Infants, & Children (WIC)
This is another Government-assisted supplemental nutrition program which the Food and Nutrition Service section of the US Department of Agriculture administers. Benefits are delivered between 6-12 months per instance, and participants may reapply at the end of a period if they are eligible. However, there are no guarantees for accessing benefits under this program because the program receives more requests than it can supply. A waiting list therefore has to be made and needs prioritized for fulfillment. According to http://singleparents.about.com/od/financialhel1/p/wic.htm prospective participants have to meet four requirements. These are:
- Categorical: Caters to women who are pregnant, have just given birth, or are breastfeeding. Also included are infants and children five years old and younger.
- Residential: Applications are state-specific, that is, in applicants’ state of residence.
- Income: The gross income of applicants may not exceed WIC’s eligibility guidelines.
- Nutritional: Caters to applicants who are in danger of being malnourished, such as persons who are anemic, whose diets are poor, or who are below their required weight.
Private Food Assistance Resources
In addition to Government programs, there are also private organizations which readily assist with food provision in an effort to eradicate poor nutrition.
Child & Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
Food resources for single mothers are not only needed by children, but also by the moms themselves and any elderly adult who may also be in their care. The CACFP caters to young children and elderly adults by providing assistance to low-income families through daily meals and snacks that are packed with nutrition. Food is also provided by the program to children in emergency shelters, and supper is given to youths who participate in appropriate afterschool care programs. Information on eligibility for this benefit can be obtained at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Care/CACFP/aboutcacfp.htm.
America’s Second Harvest
This program operates the Nation’s Food Bank Network which is provided by Tyson Foods Inc. It presently offers three types of assistance which are copied at member food banks and also food-rescue organizations, which are operated by the states. The three programs are:
- The BackPack Program: This program aims at meeting the hunger needs which are extensive in low-income households, on weekends and school vacations. It therefore supplements the regular in-school programs. The program came into being at the Arkansas Rice Depot because a school nurse requested help for children who kept complaining of stomach aches and dizziness. The local food bank gave the children groceries in unidentifiable backpacks to take home. Some backpack programs even provide extra food so that the younger siblings at home could also be catered to. The BackPack Program started as a pilot project in 1995, and was approved and adopted into the official Network in July 2006.
- Community Kitchens: These are food preparation facilities used by communities for sharing the cost, planning, and preparation of foods. Those in North Carolina and Tennessee, for example, are open to everyone. Classes are offered, so that single mothers are able to learn how to preserve food during the summer by canning them, or by making pickles, jams and jellies. Meals are less expensive because they are prepared in bulk and can be frozen for future use. This is a valuable resource for a single mother.
- Kids Café: This program, which operates during the summer, is devoted to helping to prevent hunger from negatively affecting the future of children in Central Virginia. The State started to receive less canned and packaged foods in the mid 1990s, and more prepared and perishable types. The latter types, however, could not be facilitated by the State’s warehouse program, but at the same time an increasing number of kids were starving.
Harry Chapin Food Bank
The State of Florida, for example, offers the Harry Chapin Food Bank. This was founded by Harry Chapin, whose philosophy appears to be, “To know is to care, to care is to act, to act is to make a difference.” (Chapin). Specific information can be obtained here: http://www.emccserver1.com/~harrycha/files/ChapinVirtualTourfinal11-20-09.pdf
This Food Bank established a warehouse in December 2008, and is able to expand food distribution to meet the constant needs of hungry children, the elderly, the working poor, etc, in Southwest Florida. Food distribution is done on an equitable and non-discriminatory basis. A large number of volunteers work with the program to make all kinds of food, from bread, to pizza, to meat, to fresh produce available to the needy. The program has over 150 partner agencies like food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, after-school programs, and senior centers in Southwest Florida.
Angel Food Ministries
Angel Food Ministries is an organization that is non-profit and non-denominational, which operates throughout the United States to provide food relief and contribute to the benevolent outreach programs in communities. They buy food from high quality suppliers at huge volume discounts, and so are able to provide anyone interested with high quality nutritious food worth $65 for only $30 per box. The menu varies monthly, but the food is fresh, frozen, and packaged, and there are no limitations to the amount of boxes which can be purchased. There is also no need for applications or meeting eligibility requirements.
The contents of one box of Angel Food are able to feed a four-person household for roughly one week. Regular and ‘specialty’ boxes are available, and these offer foods like –
- Dinner Buns, etc.
A visit to http://www.angelfoodministries.com/menus/menu_2011-05_en.asp will reveal the price and contents of the various boxes. An excellent food resource is provided for single mothers on this site. All that is required is that the mother places an order with a local Angel Food host site, and http://www.angelfoodministries.com/hosts.asp can assist in finding the nearest host site.
Angel Food Ministries has also worked along with the USDA to process food stamps for needy families on a monthly basis.
Other Food Resources
Food resources for single mothers are not limited to the provision and access of aid for meals. It also relates to information on nutritious foods that single moms can source and prepare for the well-being of both themselves and their children. For example, it is well known that everyone needs adequate amounts of various nutrients for healthy living. Children need them to aid growth, learning, and development, while adults need them for sustained health and even to fight or prevent certain illnesses.