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Amidst School Budget Crisis New Food 4 Thought Program Brings Food and Learning to at Risk Kids

Written by Featured Organization on 02 October 2009.

LIVINGSTON, Calif., Sept. 25 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ -- Today, Foster Farms and local Feeding America Food Banks (Second Harvest and Merced County Food Banks) launch Food 4 Thought, an incentive-based program addressing two fundamental needs - hunger and education. Amidst deep school budget cuts and a substantial increase in demand for food assistance, Food 4 Thought helps bridge the gap for needy students and their families in economically hard-hit Stanislaus and Merced counties.
 Beginning in the 2009/2010 school year, 500 elementary school students in these counties will take part in the pilot program in which participants spend eight hours in after school tutorial programs each week in exchange for a 15- to 18-pound bag of groceries twice monthly.

Studies show that hunger and learning go hand in hand. Chronically hungry children are more likely to miss school due to illness and have a higher incidence of depression, anxiety and homelessness(1). The goal of Food 4 Thought is to help break this cycle. Food 4 Thought is designed to address the nutritional needs of hungry school-aged children while offering them an incentive to improve their academic performance. The program helps students and their families maintain a healthy diet and stretch limited food budgets while improving children's self-esteem by providing tangible rewards for their hard work. 

"In the past year, food donations have dropped while demand for food assistance has risen by 25 to 30 percent," said Mike Mallory, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank which serves San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. "The combination of these factors is putting an even greater number of children at risk of suffering from moderate or severe hunger. Thanks to Foster Farms, we are now able to expand Food 4 Thought to the neediest children of Stanislaus and Merced counties." 

For the past 13 years, the Second Harvest-run Food 4 Thought program has served students in San Joaquin County through funding by grants and individual fundraisers. The program has been so successful it now serves 2,700 students at 38 school sites. Foster Farms is underwriting the pilot program in Stanislaus and Merced counties, which will initially serve students at Agnes M. Baptist Elementary, Josephine Chrysler Elementary and George Eisenhut Elementary in Modesto and Campus Park Elementary in Livingston. Schools were designated by the county school districts based on free or reduced school lunch participation and existing after school programs. 

Foster Farms hopes its move will encourage other businesses and individuals to get involved so even more students can benefit. "As a family-owned company, Foster Farms is committed to the future of our children and we've become particularly concerned about at-risk youth in our communities," said Ira Brill, Director of Marketing and Advertising Services for Foster Farms and a Second Harvest board member. "We want to do our part in helping children succeed and believe Food 4 Thought is a worthwhile program that feeds young minds and can help contribute to their path to success. We hope others will join us in supporting this program." 

Stanislaus Union School District officials agree, "This program couldn't have come at a better time," said Michelle Bell, District Coordinator of After School Programs for the district. "Funding gets cut and the kids suffer the consequences. We're grateful that Foster Farms is stepping in to bring Food 4 Thought to our schools. Schools and students can use all the help they can get." 

Foster Farms' goal with Food 4 Thought is to start locally and encourage others to contribute throughout the West Coast. For more information about Second Harvest Food Bank or donating to the Food 4 Thought program visit: http://www.localfoodbank.org . 

About Foster Farms 
Since 1939, West Coast families have depended on Foster Farms for premium quality chicken and turkey products. Family-owned and operated, the company continues its legacy of excellence and commitment to quality established by its founders, Max and Verda Foster. Foster Farms specializes in fresh, all natural chicken and turkey products free of preservatives, additives or injected sodium enhancers. Based in California's Central Valley, with ranches also in the Pacific Northwest, the company's fresh chicken and turkey are produced in or near each region served. Foster Farms also produces delicious pre-marinated, ready-to-cook and fully cooked products that meet the quality and convenience needs of today's home cooks, retailers, warehouse clubs and foodservice customers. The company's commitment to excellence, honesty, quality, service and people is a source of great pride, and, a longtime family tradition. 

(1) Food Research and Action Center. "Child Nutrition Fact Sheet" http://www.frac.org/pdf/breakfastforlearning.PDF 

SOURCE Foster Farms