At a north Modesto elementary school on Friday afternoon, 115 students packed up more than 2,000 pounds of groceries to take home to their families. Participants in the Food 4 Thought program, the children filled cloth bags with peanut butter, packed tuna, milk, produce and much more.
Food 4 Thought is an incentive-based program that addresses two fundamental needs: hunger and education.
Students participate in eight hours of weekly after-school programs (four hours academic, four extracurricular) in exchange for a 15- to 18-pound bag of groceries twice monthly.
In partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, Foster Farms brought the Food 4 Thought program to Stanislaus County in 2009. Since then, the program has provided more than 4,500 elementary students with more than 1.3 million pounds of food.
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Friday’s packing was at Eisenhut Elementary in the Stanislaus Union School District. Other schools in the program for the current academic year are Agnes Baptist, Chrysler, Empire, Orville Wright, Franklin and Capistrano, all in Modesto. Nearly 800 students are served.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, 13.5 percent of California households reported living with food insecurity – the highest rate in 10 years. Within the state, 2.4 million children – 1 in 4 – have limited or uncertain access to adequate amounts of nutritious food.
In Stanislaus County, nearly two-thirds of all students are eligible for free and reduced-price school lunches. Programs such as Food 4 Thought help those kids get healthy food at home, too.