ConAgra program ups fight against child hunger

by Eric Schroeder
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OMAHA — The creation of an “on-the-ground” initiative aimed at identifying and alleviating local child hunger while also working toward broad long-term solutions was announced Jan. 28 by ConAgra Foods, Inc. A grant from the ConAgra Foods Foundation will fund the new Feeding America program, dubbed ConAgra Foods Child Hunger Corps.

Feeding America will select members of the ConAgra Foods Child Hunger Corps. Members will serve a two-year placement at a local food bank. While addressing local child hunger issues, the members will work with corps members in other cities to “create comprehensive programs that make a real difference in the lives of hungry children and their families,” ConAgra said.

“The ConAgra Foods Foundation is building a community of people passionate about ensuring children have access to the food and knowledge they need to eat nutritiously, live balanced lifestyles, and succeed in school and life,” said Chris Kircher, president, ConAgra Foods Foundation. “In partnering with Feeding America, we're looking for ConAgra Foods Child Hunger Corps members who share that passion and are committed to creating real, sustainable solutions to end child hunger.“

According to ConAgra, the problem targeted by the initiative is a large and difficult one. Citing U.S. Department of Agriculture data, ConAgra said 16.7 million children in the United States, roughly one in four, do not have enough food to live active, healthful lives.

The first six members of the Child Hunger Corps members will be placed in 2010 at Feeding America-affiliated food banks in Little Rock, Ark.; Fort Myers, Fla.; Houston; Grove City, Ohio; Portland, Ore.; and Salem, Va. Over the next five years, the corps will expand to 35 members in 35 cities across the United States.

“We are so grateful to the ConAgra Foods Foundation for its leadership in the Child Hunger Corps,” said Vicki Escarra, president and chief executive officer of Feeding America. “This opportunity provides support and dedication in the fight against child hunger at the ground level in our communities, impacting children around the country in providing the nutrition needed to grow, survive and thrive.”

Similar to participants in the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps programs, participants in the Child Hunger Corps will assume volunteer stipend positions. Administered by Feeding America, the program will provide members a living allowance and benefits. During their two-year placements, participants will be responsible for “developing a food bank's capacity and capability to execute program models targeted toward the alleviation of child hunger, with the objective of increasing access to nutritious food in times when children need it most: in the summer, afterschool, on weekends and school vacations, and at home,” ConAgra said.

Child Hunger Corps has been established as part of a $10 million grant from the ConAgra Foods Foundation to Feeding America. The grant also supports other new Feeding America child hunger initiatives, including the summer feeding program.

Applications for 2010 placement year positions are due by Feb. 26 with a starting date in August.

Applications are available on the Feeding America web site — www.feedingamerica.org.

Feeding America is the largest domestic hunger-relief charity in the United States. Partnering with 200 member food banks that support 63,000 agencies, the group helps supply food to more than 25 million Americans annually, including 9 million children and 3 million seniors.

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