Foster Farms' 'Food 4 Thought' program a success

by Meat&Poultry staff
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LIVINGSTON, CALIF. –Five-hundred elementary students in Foster Farms' Food 4 Thought pilot program received their last grocery delivery of the school year on May 21. According to a survey of parents whose children participated in the Foster Farms-sponsored program, Food 4 Thought is having a positive impact on students both in the classroom and at home.

This incentive-based program helps address two fundamental needs – hunger and education. In exchange for eight hours in after school tutorial programs – four in academic, four in extracurricular – student participants receive a 15- to 18-pound bag of groceries twice monthly.

Foster Farms executives said as a result of the program's success, the company, with the added support of new sponsors, will be continuing and expanding the program for 2010-2011 to reach 325 additional students – 825 in total – with more than 125 of those new students in Merced County alone.

According to a recent survey of 341 Food 4 Thought parents, they found Foster Farms' program to be extremely effective:

* 82% said their child's grades improved as a result of participating in Foster Farms' Food 4 Thought program.

* 91% said the program improved their child's personal life.

* 89% said their child's communications skills have improved as a result of their participation in the program.

* Most parents said Food 4 Thought significantly helped their family's grocery budget.

"Food 4 Thought has had a significant positive impact on our students and their families," said George Solis, principal of Campus Park Elementary, a Merced County Food 4 Thought school. "We are grateful to Foster Farms for bringing this program to our school and helping to build a strong foundation for the children's future."

Despite California's agricultural bounty, 4.5 million Californians – one in four of them children – still go hungry, and the unemployment rate remains high in Stanislaus and Merced counties – 19% and 22%, respectively. Studies show that children in need of food assistance are more likely to miss school. With the help of the Food 4 Thought program, three-quarters of respondents stated that their child's attendance improved.

Survey findings indicated that the majority of student participants have a better understanding of their schoolwork, can work better independently and have a more positive attitude both at home and at school.

During the 2009-2010 school year, Foster Farms' incentive-based program supported 500 elementary students at four schools in Stanislaus and Merced counties. In exchange for their participation in eight hours of after-school tutorial programs, students received a 15- to 18-lb. bag of groceries twice monthly. During the 2009-2010 school year, the students collectively earned more than 162,000 lbs. of groceries.

Foster Farms' goal with Food 4 Thought was to start locally, expand efforts and encourage other organizations to join the movement by helping spread the program throughout the West Coast.

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