(As announced in Mount Shasta Area Newspapers, Wednesday, March 28th, 2018.)
Dignity Health’s Mercy Medical Center Mt. Shasta recently awarded a community grant of $26,203 to support the Child Nutrition Programs at Great Northern Services (GNS). “These crucial programs help fight childhood food insecurity throughout Siskiyou County,” says GNS Development Director Marie-Josée Wells, “and the funds will support such programs as holiday snack bags, mini pantries in schools, and the cooking class offered by Weed Elementary.”
In recent years GNS has established mini food pantries in local south county schools—a program that gives teachers the resources they need to help the children and families they see struggling. According to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, food insecurity in school children can be linked to health problems, behavioral problems, and learning difficulties. Mini pantries give teachers access to nutritious, healthy food that can be discreetly given to children who show up hungry. “Having food available nourishes bodies so brains can work—it reduces stress on the students, and on the teachers,” says Kristen Riccomini, Title 1 teacher at Mt. Shasta Elementary where a mini pantry was established last year.
A new pantry was recently established at the Boys & Girls Club of the Siskiyous. “The kids playfully tell us they are ‘hangry’” says Noam Zimin, the organization’s executive director, “We can fix that. The variety of food is great—the kids love it.” Bags of food from the pantries can also be sent home with kids who may face a food gap over weekends. “School staff always tell me how much they appreciate this program,” says Tyler Moser, the GNS driver who makes the monthly delivers.
“The response to the mini pantries has been very positive, and we often get requests from the community to set them up in new school districts,” says Heather Solus, Community Services Director at GNS. “90% of the funding for this program goes directly to food costs. This community grant from Dignity Health will cover the time, resources, and transportation costs needed to expand and feed more kids. We have new pantries going into Scott Valley schools this year and more on the horizon.”
Ensuring that all children have enough to eat, at all times, is an important part of Dignity Health’s mission of providing high-quality, affordable health care to the communities they serve. A lack of proper nutrition can have serious health consequences, and Childhood Obesity & Healthy Living was identified as a key health need in our community by Dignity Health’s 2014 Community Needs Assessment., “Dignity Health’s support of the Child Nutrition Programs is a testament to their commitment making Siskiyou County a healthier place to live,” said Wells, “We are grateful for their continued partnership.”
If you or someone you know is in need of assistance or if you would like to support these programs, call GNS Community Services Director Heather Solus at (530)938-4115 ext 128.