Governor Steve Bullock and First Lady Lisa Bullock joined Montana students, lawmakers and advocates to kickoff Fight Childhood Hunger Week on Monday at the Capitol.
Now in its 5th year, the statewide event is put on by the Youth Leadership Council with the goal of fighting childhood hunger in schools and communities.
From April 8-14, more than 40 student-led projects and events are planned across the state.
Elaina Patten, Capital High Sophomore, Girl Scout, and member of the Governor and First Lady Youth Leadership Council, hosted and helped organize the kickoff event and used it as a way to educate legislators.
Several tables were set up in the Rotunda with different colored placemats and napkins. Lawmakers were then served meals depending on their placemat, which included chicken cordon bleu, french toast or baked beans and white rice.
The purpose of the varying meals was to demonstrate the difference between the average food Montana youth receive depending on their parents’ wages.
Patten said it’s important that people realize the disparity and how it happens almost everywhere.
“There was one kid in one of my classes who experienced food insecurity. I gave her an orange from my lunch and that was huge for her,” explained Patten. “So I started packing her a lunch each day. We’re not in class together anymore so I worry.”
Patten is also working on a program for her school to offer more food options to students in need and will host a Hunger Dinner at Capital High School Tuesday, April 9 at 6 p.m.
“Nothing inspires me more than seeing students take the lead in fighting childhood hunger in their communities,” said First Lady Bullock at the kickoff event. “Young people like Elaina and other members of the Youth Leadership Council are committing their time and energy to making a difference because they know firsthand when they have access to food, they can better focus on their most important job – learning.”
Around 18 percent of children in Montana live in food insecure households.
In a tearful testimony, Helena resident Selena Huth called upon lawmakers and other Montanans to support the fight against childhood hunger and support state programs.
“Oftentimes we hear bullying statements to people who are experiencing financial troubles,” explained Huth. “People often make judgments about others without knowing their situation. It’s important to understand that people are trying. People want a better life for themselves, but it is very hard to escape poverty.”
Huth stressed that a person can find themselves in a hard situation do to no fault of their own and asks Montanans to open their ears, eyes and hearts to the suffering of their neighbors.
Some of this year’s Fight Childhood Hunger Week events include:
Billings: 24 Hour Walk-a-thon at Rimrock Mall
Bozeman: “Spring for Food” All Schools Food Drive
Charlo: Poverty Simulations for 6th-12th grade classes, Community Dinner and Community Movie Night
Glendive: 5K Color Run
Hardin: “Hunger, Let’s Talk About It” Awareness Event
Helena: Hunger Luncheon at the Capitol Rotunda and Hunger Dinner at Capitol High School
Trout Creek: Fun Run and Quilt Raffle
For more information about Fight Childhood Hunger Week, visit their website.
-Reported by John Riley/MTN News