Well, we have one now. October 24 is the first annual Food Day in the United States. Sponsored by an advocacy group called Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Food Day organization “seeks to bring together Americans from all walks of life—parents, teachers, and students; health professionals, community organizers, and local officials; chefs, school lunch providers, and eaters of all stripes—to push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way.”
Funny thing is, Junior Leagues have been on this track for a long while. A hundred years ago, the Junior League of Brooklyn’s pioneering work 100 years ago on promoting free school lunches in New York City ultimately led to the National School Lunch Program in the 1940s.
Today, that effort takes many different forms. The Junior League of Lubbock, for example, has created a Signature Project called Food2Kids (F2K), which is modeled after America’s Second Harvest Backpack Program. Working in association with the South Plains Food Bank and Lubbock Independent School District, sacks of food are sent home on Fridays with children identified as being potentially at high risk for suffering from hunger during the weekend. Food for the F2K program is specifically chosen for its nutritional value, weight and child-friendly accessibility. JLL and its community partners are seeking donations to expand the program to all Lubbock area schools.
The Junior League of Collin County, working with the City of Plano, is taking another approach: a community garden that donates the bulk of its harvest to the hungry. In addition to its obvious benefit of providing fresh, healthy produce to those who need it most, the Plato Community Garden promotes voluntarism in the community and presents educational opportunities for local schools and children’s organizations. And the garden is 100% organic, designed to be self-sustaining and environmentally friendly!
While JLCC provides fresh produce to local food pantries; the Junior League of Hartford is working with community partners to recreate the basic food pantry model from the ground up. Founded by the JLH in partnership with Chrysalis Center, a Connecticut-based nonprofit healthcare agency, and Foodshare, the area’s regional food bank, Freshplace deals directly with the issue of healthy food by providing needy residents of the Upper Albany neighborhood of Hartford—one of the poorest cities in the country—with options to junk food, including refrigerated dairy products, meat, fruits and vegetables. Freshplace clients, referred to as “members,” choose the foods they want as they co-shop with volunteers in a state-of-the-art 2,000-square-foot facility. Cooking classes demonstrate healthy meal preparation and nutrition education. Freshplace also provides members with a portal for access to social services and assistance programs to address issues involving food security, self-sufficiency, benefits and entitlements, and health. And members receive access to job support, including computers to prepare resumes and search for employment.
Taking an entirely different approach, the Junior Leagues of California State Public Affairs Committee is promoting legislation at the state level to require school districts in California to undertake specific actions to increase access for eligible students to the federal School Breakfast Program. This is part of CALSPAC’s ongoing initiatives in Sacramento to sponsor or support legislation that addresses women and children’s issues in California.
And finally, The Junior League’s Kids in the Kitchen program – now in its sixth year – provides kid-friendly, hands-on education designed to address issues surrounding childhood obesity and poor nutrition. Currently, over 200 Leagues in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States carry out KITK events every year.
Different approaches…same goal. That’s The Junior League.