IICF Week of Giving: Feeding Houston's Children
How Kids’ Meals and IICF are supporting children suffering from food insecurity.
Food insecurity has plagued our nation for years and sadly, continues to loom large across the nation impacting people of all ages, including children and families. In 2006, we founded Kids’ Meals in an effort to combat childhood food insecurity in the Houston area, after one of our members observed hungry children in their neighborhood and decided to take make a difference.
Since our founding, Kids’ Meals has delivered more than eight million free, healthy meals to Houston-area children living in food insecure homes. What started with one car is now 12 vans, delivering to 43 zip codes, and feeding more than 6,600 children per day.
Kids’ Meals is a unique program for several reasons. First, our volunteers prepare and pack healthy, individual meals for each child on our program every day. Second, these meals are delivered free directly to homes. Many of the families on our programs do not have access to reliable transportation and find this service invaluable. Finally, we focus on preschool-aged children (ages five and under) who do not have access to free school-based meals through public schools. According to First Things First, ninety percent of a child’s brain is fully developed by the age of five. If children do not have healthy and consistent nutrition during this time, it can have life-long consequences. By delivering free, healthy meals daily to these children, we are giving them hope for their future.
What started with one car is now 12 vans, delivering to 43 zip codes, and feeding more than 6,600 children per day.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated food insecurity issues significantly. Feeding America estimated that 45 million people may have suffered a lack of food security during 2020. Our numbers at Kids’ Meals even increased by 138 percent almost overnight at the onset of the pandemic. In Harris County, one out of every four children was already living unsure of where their next meal would come from, and those needs became even more severe. In 2020 alone, the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) funded approximately 55,000 meals delivered free to hungry children in Houston. IICF has also supported Kids’ Meals with volunteers decorating over 2,500 lunch sacks to help the organization’s efforts during the pandemic to help fight childhood hunger.
IICF’s grants also helped our organization keep up with demand as unemployment skyrocketed. IICF has been ready and willing to join the fight against childhood hunger wherever needed, even serving as a sponsor for a dodgeball tournament to raise awareness and funds for Kids’ Meals. IICF also continues its nationwide fight against childhood hunger with its Children’s Relief Fund. This year for IICF’s Week of Giving, it will be providing us with volunteers who will help prepare hundreds of healthy lunches for kids in need consisting of a sandwich, nutritious snack and juice or milk. We expect to have 15-20 volunteers per day during the Week of Giving.
By providing daily meals to children, you can help relieve anxiety for families and create financial flexibility. Fernanda, one of the moms on the Kids’ Meals program, has seven children. She said, “We often have nothing to eat in our home. Having Kids’ Meals is such a blessing as a mom knowing that my children will be able to eat each day.” Another Kids’ Meals mom, Soña, added “Kids’ Meals helps lower food costs and increases our access to food. Healthy food is now one less thing to worry about. I know my children will eat each day and I can focus on other important things.”
In Houston, there are approximately 26,000 preschool-aged children living in food insecure homes. At Kids’ Meals, we regularly refer to our “moonshot goal” of feeding all 26,000 every day by 2031. We are so grateful to have partners like IICF as we work together to reach this goal and end childhood hunger in Houston.