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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

Pandemic Bolsters Food Insecurity For At-Risk Kids In Dallas County

Emily Dragoo, center, a teacher at Apollo Jr. High, hands out food to Richardson Independent School District families at a distribution site in Dallas in May.
Tony Gutierrez
/
Associated Press
Emily Dragoo, center, a teacher at Apollo Jr. High hands out food to Richardson Independent School District families at a distribution site in Dallas

For families on the financial edge, the pandemic is making life that much harder — but especially for children.

KERA's Justin Martin talked about the challenges facing these families with Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of the education nonprofit Children At Risk.

On the kids in North Texas who were food insecure before COVID-19:

We're looking at a number of kids and famililes that are having real trouble making sure that there's enough food on the table, and this is a big crisis. You know, food banks get this and the directors of nutrition services in the ISDs. They get this as well.

People are very concerned about this, and we see a lot of pictures of these long lines of the food banks, long lines at food pantries. And this is an example of what's going on, this food insecurity that's happening.

We just got in the state of Texas pandemic EBT cards, which means for every kid you have in school who was getting a free school lunch, you're now going to get a card in the mail and you're going to be able to go to the supermarket and buy some food. That's going to go a long ways towards solving this problem.

We're seeing now also that, if you were eligible for SNAP, for every child you have you're going to be getting an increase in that card. That's going to help a lot.

But these are things that we're going to have to do to make sure that our kids don't go hungry. I mean, we're a very wealthy nation. We have great farmers, they're struggling right now, too. We need to figure out a way to make those connections so that we don't have these food insecure children, and we don't have kids that are not able to study and do the academic work necessary. 

On the 10 Dallas County ZIP codes that are a high risk for kids going hungry:

You start with the premise that these are the ZIP codes that you would expect, but these aren't just high poverty ZIP codes. These are also ZIP codes where we look at social vulnerability within those neighborhoods.

We know that again, access to cars, to transportation is tougher, again, the number of kids that are in families with a disabled parent is a little bit higher. So there's a number of factors that go into this.

You would expect where there's high poverty, you're going to have some food insecurity, but sometimes you don't think about the things like, "Wow! There's no supermarket nearby to use my EBT card, and mass transportation is not running in the normal way right now."

There's a number of different factors that flow into this, but it should help us to identify where school districts have to work a little bit extra to make sure that those families are getting some food, and for food banks to understand making sure that there are pantries near everybody so that those kids can be fed. 

On future concerns:

The thing that worries me the most is that we're not paying enough attention to this growing group of people that don't have jobs, and then the kids in those families.

We're talking about the youngest families in our state, we're talking about the future of Texas, and when we're not paying enough attention to how those kids and how those families are doing, it worries me because this is our economic future.

We've often heard people say, are we going to produce a third world workforce? And in many ways, if we don't do the right things in terms of feeding our kids and making sure that they go to good schools, I think we're going to have a workforce that is going to be underperforming. These will be underperforming economic assets for our state.

That's the biggest worry for me is that we're going to leave too many kids behind because we're all very concerned with our own families right now as well we should be, but we need to understand that the majority of families are having a very rough time in Texas. 

Bob Sanborn is the President and CEO of the education nonprofit Children At Risk

Got a tip? Email Justin Martin at Jmartin@kera.org. You can follow Justin on Twitter @MisterJMart.

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