Feed our Future, a new Cayman Islands charity organisation, will address the growing problem of hunger in the schools.
Because of a stagnant economy and a cash-strapped government, hunger is a growing problem in Cayman.
A new charity foundation called Feed our Future aims to help alleviate the problem, at least when it comes to school children.
Foundation Chairwoman Stacey VanDevelde said the mission of Feed our Future is to provide holistic nourishment to children of need.
“Every day across the Cayman Islands, teachers see the unfortunate effects of childhood hunger,” she said.
“Our foundation exists to solve childhood hunger and support the intellectual nourishment of children in the Cayman Islands through the funding of nutritionally-balanced school meals to children in need.”
Historically, there have always been children in Cayman’s public schools who relied on subsidised or free school meals. However, the number of those children has increased as government subsidies have simultaneously decreased.
Feed our Future’s overview document states that in 2010 there were approximately 1,000 families in the Cayman Islands that were food insecure, which means they struggled to afford sufficient nutritious food.
Teacher Simone Ross, one of seven founding Caymanian board members of Feed our Future, said hunger affects the ability of children to focus on learning.
“It’s a significant issue in my school,” she said. “If they’re not eating properly, they’re not learning properly.”
Ross said she often sees other children sharing their lunch with those that have none, and that teachers themselves help out from their own pockets at times.
Speaking on Saturday, 8 October, at Feed our Future’s first major fundraising event – a pig roast on the Coral Caymanian beach – VanDevelde said that in 2010, the Cayman Islands Department of Children and Family Services provided 721 school meal vouchers to children in need.
“Reportedly hundreds more could have been helped, however combined factors of budget constraints and applicant pride prevented more families from getting the help they so need,” she said.
Despite the number of kids who need help, the Government’s 2011/2012 budget cut school lunch provisions from between 650-900 students to between 600 and 650 students.
Other charity groups help out, but the need persists and is getting worse.
“Times are tight,” said Anthony Lawson, another Feed our Future board member. “A lot more people are feeling it. I have a good job and my wife has good job and we find it difficult sometimes. I can only imagine what it’s like for a single parent with two or three kids.”
For many children, the school lunch is the only solid meal they will receive the entire day, VanDevelde said.
“Every child needs nutritious food. If children do not eat they cannot learn; they cannot behave to expectation; they will not remain healthy.
A hungry child is at risk. It is that simple.”
VanDevelde said hungry children are more likely to have low energy, to be tardy or absent for school, to be more apathetic, disinterested, irritable or hyperactive, to have more trouble concentrating, to have lower self-esteem and poorer social skills than their properly fed peers.
“Research shows that children in food insecure families will face lasting challenges in their mental development and health with even short-term episodes of hunger placing children at risk for a range of cognitive, behavioural, emotional, and physical problems.”
Feed our Future also wants to help awareness of proper nutrition.
“The schools tell you a lot of the kids are just fed from gas stations,” said VanDevelde.
“From a health standpoint, childhood is a critical period in determining the development of an individual’s health into adolescence and adulthood. Poor dietary habits that begin in childhood may take years to develop into symptoms of diseases such as obesity, heart dysfunction, diabetes, and cancer.”
School lunches cost an average of $6 each, VanDevelde said. With $1,000, Feed our Future can cover the cost of a school lunch for one child for a full school year.
Feed our Future’s goal is to help bridge in the gap between what the government can provide and what is needed to ensure there are no schoolchildren going hungry. The programme aims to help children of need in all age groups in all of the Cayman Islands and, if there is a need, in private schools as well as the public schools.
“We would like to step up and take off some of the burden from government,” she said.
To do this, Feed our Future will need to raise a lot of money, possibly as much as $150,000 a year. The money will go directly to the various food providers to buy lunches for children identified as needing assistance by Children and Family Services.
“We know we can fund the meal and we know that they are going to get that meal,” said VanDevelde.
In addition to making sure schoolchildren aren’t hungry, another longer term goal of Feed our Future is to raise awareness of the importance of proper nutrition.
Incorporated as a not-for-profit association on 30 June, 2011, Feed our Future started its fund-raising efforts through what VanDevelde calls a “soft reach out” to various corporations, which did things like dress down pledge days to raise funds.
Feed our Future aims to create a second signature annual fundraising event in addition to the October pig roast, which served as the public introduction of the Feed our Future board. In addition to VanDevelde, Ross and Lawson, the board consists of Anna Goubault, Frank Balderamos, Jr., Kyle McLean and Wanda Ebanks.
Going forward, VanDevelde said Feed our Future will expand its fundraising methods to allow for many levels of financial support. It already has a Facebook page and is in the process of building a website.
To learn more about Feed our Future or to sponsor a child, contact Stacey VanDevelde at