LIVINGSTON, Calif., May 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- As the current school year comes to a close, 825 elementary school students participating in the second round of Foster Farms' Food 4 Thought program will soon receive their final grocery delivery of the school year (650 in Stanislaus County will receive their delivery tomorrow and the remaining Merced County students receive theirs the week of May 31). According to a survey of parents whose children took part in the Foster Farms-sponsored program, Food 4 Thought continues to have a positive impact on students both in the classroom and at home. This year's program supported 60 percent more children than last year, reaching 825 elementary students at nine schools in Stanislaus and Merced counties. Participating students logging eight hours in after-school tutoring a week received 15- to 18-lb bags of groceries twice monthly. Needy students in Stanislaus and Merced Counties received more than 260,000 pounds of groceries in the 2010-2011 school year alone.
A recent survey of more than 100 Food 4 Thought parents found Foster Farms' program to be extremely effective:
- 93 percent reported that Food 4 Thought significantly helped their family's grocery budget, a 23 percent increase from the previous year.
- 89 percent reported that their child's grades improved as a result of participating in Foster Farms' Food 4 Thought program, a 7 percent increase from the previous year.
- 90 percent of parents surveyed said the program improved their child's personal life.
- 92 percent responded that their child's communications skills improved as a result of their participation in the program.
"Food 4 Thought has been a great success with our students and their families, impacting both their school and home lives," said George Solis, principal of Campus Park Elementary, a Merced County Food 4 Thought school. "We are grateful to Foster Farms for continuing this program with our school and helping to build a strong foundation for the children's future."
According to Second Harvest Food Bank in Stanislaus County, the program addresses the need for food donations at a time when demand for food continues to rise – demand has risen 25 to 30 percent while general donations have dropped. 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 – 17.6 percent and 18.9 percent respectively, representing the highest rate of unemployment in the San Joaquin Valley.(1) These local rates are significantly higher than the national rate of unemployment which was nine percent in April 2011 (the most recent numbers available according to the United States Department of Labor).
Studies show that children in need of food assistance are more likely to miss school. With the help of the Food 4 Thought program, more than four out of five respondents stated that their child's attendance improved. Survey findings indicated that the majority of student participants have a better understanding of their schoolwork and improved grades, can work better independently with heightened leadership skills, and have a more positive attitude both at home and at school.
"My son has learned a lot through this program, and was able to finish his homework. His confidence in school is greatly improved," responded one surveyed parent whose child is a Food 4 Thought participant. "Since my son has been in this program he has been more motivated and happy," wrote another parent. "Thank you for having this program for our children – our future."
In its second year, the Foster Farms Food 4 Thought program served students at Empire Elementary, Orville Wright School, Eisenhut, Chrysler and Agnes Baptist schools in Modesto and Stanislaus counties, Schendel Elementary School and El Capitan Elementary School in Delhi, Franks Park Elementary School in Winton and Campus Park in Livingston. Schools were designated by the county school districts based on free or reduced school lunch participation and existing after-school programs.
With deep school budget cuts and high demand for food assistance persisting, the survey demonstrates that Food 4 Thought continues to helps bridge the gap for students in need and their families in economically hard-hit counties.
"As California continues to lag behind the rest of the nation in economic recovery, Foster Farms believes it is important to help those in our community with great needs," said Ira Brill, director of marketing and advertising services for Foster Farms and a Second Harvest board member. "We continue to encourage other California businesses to stand behind this program. The results of this parent survey show Food 4 Thought works – we are proud of every student involved and want to see this program continue."
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. In addition to Food 4 Thought, Foster Farms is supporting Eat Local, Buy California Grown, an initiative supporting eating locally grown goods and keeping California dollars in the state.
For more information about Second Harvest Food Bank or donating to the Food 4 Thought program visit: www.localfoodbank.org, www.cafoodbanks.org. Visit www.facebook.com/eatlocalbuycaliforniagrown to learn more about Eat Local, Buy California Grown and what eating locally grown food means to California.
About Food 4 Thought
Food 4 Thought is an incentive-based program that 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 15-18 pound bag of groceries twice monthly. Food 4 Thought has been operated by Second Harvest Food Bank in San Joaquin County for the past 13 years through support by grants and individual fundraisers. The program now serves 3,300 students at 42 school sites. Foster Farms underwrote the 2010-2011 program in Stanislaus and Merced counties to serve 825 elementary students in these counties. It will continue its support of this program next year.
About Foster Farms
Since 1939, West Coast families have depended on Foster Farms for premium quality chicken and turkey products. Family-owned and operated, the company continues its legacy of excellence and commitment to quality established by its founders, Max and Verda Foster. Foster Farms specializes in fresh, all natural chicken and turkey products free of preservatives, additives or injected sodium enhancers. Based in California's Central Valley, with ranches also in the Pacific Northwest, the company's fresh chicken and turkey are produced in or near each region served. Foster Farms also produces delicious pre-marinated, ready-to-cook and fully cooked products that meet the quality and convenience needs of today's home cooks, retailers, warehouse clubs and foodservice customers. The company's commitment to excellence, honesty, quality, service and people is a source of great pride, and, a longtime family tradition.
(1) "Unemployment in the San Joaquin Valley By County." Bureau of Labor Statistics. http://www.bls.gov/ro9/lausjoaq.pdf
SOURCE Foster Farms