Kids facing hunger in Eastern Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Kids facing hunger in Eastern Iowa

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

A USDA report shows in 2010, 16 million children in the United States lived in families where food was sometimes scarce. That breaks down to one in every five US children facing hunger.

Rhonda Simpson is the Dubuque Community School District health service coordinator.

"It just breaks my heart to see kids not be able to eat," she said Thursday.

As of that Dec. 1, the district had 143 homeless students. That's the highest number the district has ever seen at its Dec. 1 benchmark, Simpson said. She attributed part of that to the devastating flooding of late July.

It's just one of the signs of a troubled economic time.

"We often hear of people out of jobs or they're just running out of their unemployment. They're just really struggling," she said.

Five of the Dubuque Community School District's 13 elementary schools have more than 60% of their students on the free or reduced lunch and breakfast program. Enrollment is based on a family's income.

"We do have a high need. You know, a lot of poverty in some of our buildings, and for some of these kids, it's the only meals they're getting," Simpson said.

The district does what it can to keep kids fed. School nurses can refer families to area food banks.

"We have backpack programs," Simpson said, "where we've had companies offer to donate food, where we would send home food on the weekends with kids in the backpacks."

As Simpson and any school nurse knows, "Children need to have fuel in their bodies to be able to focus and to learn," she said. "We work really hard to try to keep kids from going hungry because it's essential for learning, but it's also essential for life."

To see the USDA report, click HERE.

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