September 27, 2022
Kids living in rural regions are more likely to experience food insecurity, and a new initiative has been launched to help West Virginia communities design and test their own ideas for ending child hunger. Tamara Sandberg, senior adviser for food security at Save the Children, said the lessons learned during the pandemic increased flexibility for federally funded food programs across the country. She hopes the lab will allow communities to continue problem-solving to ensure more kids are fed. "The idea of the Rural Child Hunger Research and Innovation Lab is to lift up ideas from within rural communities," Sandberg explained. "Provide them with the support to incubate their ideas and then, funding and technical assistance to try out their ideas." Cathryn Miller, West Virginia state director for Save the Children, said her organization is now partnering with a local Housing Authority to deliver fresh fruits and vegetables from farmers in the area, to families unable to drive to food banks. "Through this initiative, we hand-delivered them to the families," Miller recounted. "But we also paired books and other learning activities, and also recipes to go along with the food that we delivered, and then, we gathered feedback from the family." Miller added the Mountain State is relying on innovative ideas to help boost food-security efforts across all counties. She is hopeful local groups will submit their ideas, so they can receive funds to kick-start projects. "More than 20% of rural children are estimated to experience food insecurity," Miller reported. "And here in West Virginia, that translates to one in eight households with children reporting not having enough food in their home." Research shows food insecurity can delay normal development in young children, increase risk of chronic illnesses like asthma and anemia, as well as hyperactivity, aggression and other behavioral issues.