When most kids think of summer, they’re generally looking forward to having no school and spending extra free time with their friends. But for the millions of children facing food insecurity, summer is spent wondering where their next meal is coming from.
Hunger Heroes at the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) College of Education and Human Performance are working to provide healthy meals for the students at Orlando’s Tangelo Park Elementary School and their families through the Fed 40 mobile app.
Created by the team at Feeding Children Everywhere (FCE), Fed 40 allows families in need to request meals directly from FCE. Once the meals are requested, a box of 40 nutritious meals is delivered to their front door in about one business day, always free of charge.
The College of Education and Human Performance recently gathered a team of 50 volunteers—including some staff members from the elementary school—to package 5,040 meals that would be sent home with the students for summer break.
These meals were packaged in Fed 40 boxes along with a card containing information on how to request future meals at no charge using the Fed 40 app.
“Programs like Fed 40 are providing the students of Tangelo Park and their families with an opportunity to eat when they might not have that opportunity,” says Jordan Grushka, recruitment coordinator at the College of Education and Human Performance at UCF. “If they aren’t receiving meals while they’re at home for the summer, they are going to bed hungry and waking up hungry. But with Fed 40, they can get a box of meals delivered to their home with no shame and no questions asked. This is how we’re fighting hunger.”
Grushka, who has been packaging meals with FCE for over five years, shared that UCF’s College of Education and Human Performance works to provide a holistic experience for all of their students. “Community engagement is a large part of this experience,” Grushka shared. “The partnership with FCE and the Fed 40 program was the perfect fit for us, providing meals for students and their families in the community.”
Before volunteers began packing meals, Christie Rae, principal at Tangelo Park, shared a heartbreaking story about one of her students:
“We were talking, and he looked over at the clock and noticed the date. He was thrilled and exclaimed, ‘Only four days until we get our food stamps!’” she remembered, choking back tears. “His family has been struggling, and they rely on food stamps for their meals. These kids are still growing, and their bodies need nutrients in order for their brains to grow as well. We truly don’t realize how blessed we are just to have two to three meals a day.”
There was hardly a dry eye in the room as volunteers got into assembly lines and in one hour packaged more than 5,000 meals.
The following day, more than 100 elementary students went home from school with 40 servings of FCE’s Red Lentil Jambalaya meal.
“We cannot begin to thank FCE enough for this partnership, and for this amazing Fed 40 initiative,” Rae shared at the end of the project. “What you all are doing is truly making such a difference in the lives of our children.”