The issue of child hunger took center stage at Middletown’s Macdonough Elementary on Wednesday as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy picked to the North End's kindergarten-to-grade-five school to launch a new initiative that aims to keep kids “healthy and thriving.”
Malloy introduced The Connecticut No Kid Hungry Campaign, a statewide, public-private partnership with the national and statewide anti-hunger organizations Share Our Strength and End Hunger Connecticut!, which looks to end childhood hunger by 2015.
"We've got to have everybody in our society take it upon themselves to make sure that they play a role in making sure that not one of those 100,000 children who are at risk to go hungry go hungry," he said.
The focus of No Kid Hungry is to increase participation in federally funded food and nutrition programs to combat the estimated 127,000 children at risk of missing a meal.
Malloy began his address in the school gymnasium by recalling his last visit to Macdonough was in September 2010 at the first gubernatorial debate of the general election.
"From that debate, we went on to ultimately surprise everybody and become governor. ... It all had a start here at Macdonough and that's why it's so much fun to come back to a great educational institution, one that has accomplished so much in the city of Middletown, to kick off what should be a no-brainer," Malloy said.
The governor was joined by the USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Colcannon, State Senate President Don Williams and State Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan. Chefs Billy Grant and Tim Cipriano spoke to those gathered, about their goals as co-chairs of Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation Hartford and Hartford Committees.
Malloy stressed the need for every member of a community to take an active role in making sure children eat enough — and eat nutritionally rich meals.
"School nurses and principals and every adult in the [school] is going to be cognizant of the fact that there are 100,000 children in our midst that could be missing a meal," Malloy said. "Every recreation leader, everyone trained in a summer program, every social worker has to be very much attuned to the fact that 100,000 children are at risk in Connecticut."
The initiative will also address obstacles faced by families whose first language is not English and who go hungry.
"We've got to find special tools to make sure that we overcome language barriers, which all too often prevents families from accessing the things that they are entitled to access to benefit their children," Malloy said.
Macdonough fifth-grader Jade Diaz was chosen to introduce the governor with a poem she had written as part of the Northern Middlesex YMCA Kids Korner after-school program based at the school.
"Every day the school serves us great lunch / then after school we get snacks that we love a bunch / we've grown our own vegetables in our community plot / now we even have a Macdonough School gardening spot."
Also part of the event were students from Global Communications Academy in Hartford who participate in Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters, which teaches families how to create healthy and delicious meals and snacks with a limited grocery budget.
According to End Hunger, the summer meals program isn't reaching as much as 75 percent of eligible children. At least 24,000 eligible children aren't participating in The After School Supper Program.
Share Out Strength plans to increase summer meal service by 10 percent in the first year and launching an English-Spanish website with summer meal site listings and awarding grants to begin or expand summer meals.