Natalie Caples, co-CEO of the Central California Food Bank, speaks at a news conference Wednesday. Photo by Ben Hensley
Written by Ben Hensley
Valley Children’s Hospital and The Central California Food Bank held a press conference on Wednesday to announce the expansion of a partnership to fight childhood hunger in the Central Valley.
The partnership, which includes a $150,000 commitment from Valley Children’s, is a three-year plan focusing on supporting programs that grant access to healthy food choices for children in need and their families.
“The billboard along Highway 99 reminds us that one out of four Valley kids don’t get enough to eat, which cannot simply be something we drive by, or as a community, something we can accept,” said Lynne Ashbeck, Valley Children’s chief community impact officer.
The program includes a 3-strategy structure, including the funding of a food bank, the delivery of food packages by a Valley Children’s Home Care Team to medically complex children with transportation issues, and the expansion of the food bank with the Fresno Mission to open the First Fruits Market, a grocery store-style at Blackstone and Dakota avenues that will serve families in need.
“We look forward to making that billboard obsolete, and when we can celebrate together that no child is hungry in this community,” Ashbeck said.
“Temperature, heart rate, blood pressure; they’re deemed vital signs because they are critical prognosticators of our overall well being and our risk of severity of illness,” said Valley Children’s Medical Director of Primary Care Dr. Carmela Sosa. “Hunger is now considered a critical vital sign.”
Sosa added that children without direct access to food are at risk of illness, hospitalization and cognitive delay — adding that hunger hinders concentration, threatening a child’s ability in school.
“It is our hope that through these strategic partnerships, we can provide support to the most high-need neighborhoods with greater access to the foods they need to thrive,” said Natalie Caples, co-Ceo of Central California Food Bank. “Now, kids can spend time just being kids, and not spend time worrying about their next meal.”