Recently, I received a report on our summer lunch and reading program. We call it "Nurture, Knowledge and Nutrition."
Thanks to funding from the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Central Dallas Ministries provided lunch, healthy snacks and reading resources to 130 program sites all across our side of the Metroplex during summer 2007. The program reach was wide indeed, stretching across Dallas and extending from Denton on the north to Duncanville on the south. Over 9,000 children received the benefit of this fairly massive effort.
Even though I thought I pretty well knew the ins and outs of this initiative, the report I received shocked me. We were provided a break down of the percentage of children in each area served who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program offered in our public schools.
The average percentage of eligible children for our 130 areas was 85.6%.
Of course, many areas reported percentages in the upper 90s. A couple of areas reported 100% of the children qualifying for the food benefit.
These numbers tell me a couple of things:
1) Poverty is wide-spread in the Dallas area.
2) Poverty is concentrated, severely so in many areas.
3) The overall wealth of our city and our region is not translating into economic well-being for thousands of children and their parents.
4) We are only touching a small percentage of the children who need to receive the benefits of these resources.
We are now planning a concerted effort to register other community sites for next summer so that the benefit can spread. That said, we obviously need better, long term, systemic solutions to this deeply entrenched poverty. As important as providing a healthy might be, we must do more and we must focus on different, more challening matters if we want the children to find hope and better lives.