WASHINGTON, June 14, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Most hungry children in the U.S. suffer quietly, and are unnoticed until a teacher or a doctor recognizes their "failure to thrive." Hungry children and their families are everywhere, in every single corner of America - including Lake St. Louis, Mo. The first and most critical step to solving this problem is learning to see it. Area resident Lana Kruse not only sees how hunger affects a growing population, she voluntarily works to eliminate it. Tonight, the Sodexo clinical nutrition manager at St. Joseph's Hospital West will be recognized as a Hero of Everyday Life® at the 13th Annual Sodexo Foundation Dinner in Washington, D.C. As part of that recognition, Kruse will receive a $5,000 grant, presented in her name to the hunger-relief charity of her choice, First Step Back Home, Inc.
Thanks to Kruse, more than $735,000 has been donated to First Step Back Home covering lodging, food, gas, phone cards, medicine and more. It has served more than 4,000 men, women and children. Kruse's example and leadership rallied more than 600 volunteers who have logged nearly 10,000 hours for the hot meal ministry. In 2011, Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder presented Lana Kruse and her husband Paul, co-founders of First Step Back Home, with the Senior Service Award and in that same year Lana received the Jane Crider Volunteer Leadership Award for advancing health care issues in the community.
Kruse is treasurer and a member of the board for First Step Back Home. In 2005 she recognized that while support for homeless women and children existed in her community, it was overburdened and did not address the needs of homeless men. The formation of First Step Back Home was designed to fill that void by providing temporary lodging in a local hotel. It later expanded to include the distribution of survival backpacks filled with a two-day supply of nutritious, non-perishable food items and utensils.
"Lana's dedication to fighting hunger in the homeless community is more than commendable, it's a model for us all," said Robert A. Stern, Chair, Sodexo Foundation. "Homeless or not—that one in five children and can go to bed hungry or spend weekends unsure about the next meal is unthinkable to Lana. It should be for all of us. We all have to roll up our sleeves and take hunger personally."
In 2007 Kruse established an evening hot meal program every Saturday, which quickly expanded to seven days a week. Since its founding, she has trained 66 volunteer groups committed to serving homeless men, women and children. Kruse's work has been infectious, inspiring support for her survival backpack program from colleagues at work and local businesses.
"There's no way we can make a difference to help the homeless find work and achieve self-sufficiency if we can't help with the basic need of hunger relief first," says Kruse.
There are more than 16 million children living in America in homes where meals are uncertain. That's one in five American kids at risk of hunger every day. Tragically, while 22 million kids in the U.S. are eligible for free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program, only 3 million of them are aware of or have access to existing free meal programs during weekends and school breaks. The volunteer efforts by Heroes of Everyday Life, like Kruse, help to bridge that gap.
Sodexo Foundation recognizes Sodexo employees who invest their time, talent, and service spirit in helping those at-risk of hunger in the United States. Nominated by a colleague, friend or employer, selected Heroes are honored at the annual Sodexo Foundation Dinner and receive a $5,000 grant for their hunger-related charity of choice.
Lana M. Kruse is one of five Heroes of Everyday Life recognized in 2012 by Sodexo Foundation. Others include: Diana L. Messett of Mt. Airy, Md., Karen A. Peloquin of Douglas, Mass., Phyll Dondis Ribakoff of Weston, Mass. and Cynthia L. Steele of Columbia, S.C.
ABOUT SODEXO'S FIGHT AGAINST HUNGER
Sodexo Inc. and Sodexo Foundation work to help end hunger in the United States. Sodexo Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit with the mission to end childhood hunger. The foundation works to ensure that every child in the United States, especially those most at-risk, grows up with dependable access to enough nutritious food to enable them to lead a healthy, productive life. Sodexo Foundation cultivates and maintains strategic partnerships with regional and national hunger relief entities and youth mobilization organizations—all part of Sodexo's STOP Hunger Initiative, its global program to end hunger and malnutrition in the communities where it operates. Sodexo is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md. and funds all administrative costs for Sodexo Foundation, which since 1999 has made more than $17 million in grants to end childhood hunger. Visit www.SodexoFoundation.org for more information.
Sodexo's STOP Hunger Programs
Impact to Date (as of June 2012)
Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship
Heroes of Everyday Life®
Feeding Our Future®
Backpack Food Program
Distributed more than $17 million in grants
Gave $353,000 in scholarships & matching grants
Awarded $478,000 to employees' hunger charities
Funded more than 2.9 million summer meals
Mobilized 125,000 employees to fight hunger
Funded 70 programs; providing 2 million meals
SOURCE Sodexo, Inc.