Fighting Hunger On The Homefront

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September is Hunger Awareness Month. It's an issue that many in our own back yard deal with on a daily basis, but even if our neighbors are getting meals, that doesn't necessarily mean they are nutritious.

One aspect of hunger awareness is nutrition. Between a can of beef ravioli and a cup of yogurt, the beef ravioli has beef in the title so it has to be stuffed with protein, right? Actually, the ravioli has eight grams of protein compared to the yogurt's 14 grams.

Nutrition experts recommend shopping on the outside aisles of the grocery store where you will find less processed foods. Along the aisles are foods that use a lot of salt and sugar in order to be packaged and preserved. And while the fresher items are more expensive, you are getting a bigger bang for your buck.

“If you think about what you're getting there in comparison to what you're buying in the middle of the grocery store where there's much more packaging and higher fat and sugar content foods, you're getting much more nutrition for the amount that you're paying,” says Heartland Family Service Program Director Andrea Wright.

You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and metro schools are making sure students start the day with a full belly. While all Omaha Public Schools offer breakfast, just 24 of them currently participate in the Grab and Go program. When students get to school in the morning they can pick up a sack lunch and have the option to eat it in the classroom.

Studies show students who eat a good breakfast tend to perform better in school, have better attendance and fewer behavior problems. ConAgra Foods and OPS have teamed up to make this possible. After students have finished the meal, they are responsible for recycling and throwing away the trash, so those involved with the program say that provides an additional teaching moment. Three more OPS schools will be starting the program this month with the ultimate goal to get all district schools participating.

Nebraska is a food production state. We are number one in the country for red meat production and number three in corn for grain production. Still, one in five children in the state may not know where their next meal is coming from. It's an issue Heartland Family Service is trying to combat. Its child and adult food care program makes sure children are eating balanced meals, at least while they are at child care, by reimbursing providers for healthy foods.

“You see a different community when you're out in the homes and seeing what the children are facing and you hear what the child care providers are talking about, children coming into their child care who haven't ate yet for the day and it's already 10 o’clock in the morning,” says Wright.

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