For families that struggle to make ends meet, and especially for kids who depend on free and reduced-price lunches, back-to-school season can mean a return to reliable food. But many hungry preschool-aged children don’t have that option.
That’s why thousands of Houston families rely on the group Kids’ Meals, which delivers food to more than 6,000 preschool-aged children to help ensure they have enough to eat. Amerigroup is underwriting the group’s produce program, which makes sure that healthy and fresh fruits and vegetables are part of their diets.
The group’s focus on food — and on easy and ready access to food — directly reflects Amerigroup’s mission and work to improve the health of Texans and fortify Texas communities by ensuring people have enough to eat, said Amerigroup Texas President Greg Thompson.
Kids’ Meals works with nearly a dozen volunteer drivers every day to deliver food to families in 44 Houston-area ZIP codes. Deliveries include fresh produce; staples like rice and beans; healthy children’s snacks; and juice and water. Over this past summer, Kids’ Meals increased its deliveries to provide food to about 10,000 children — helping to feed siblings who were out of school and lacked access to free and reduced lunches.
Nearly all of the families receiving deliveries from Kids’ Meals are food insecure, meaning they do not have reliable access to healthy food every day, said Kids’ Meals CEO Beth Harp. Most live in food deserts, requiring them to drive several miles simply to get to a grocery store.
“Unhealthy food is often more accessible and affordable than healthy food. That’s a dangerous dynamic for young kids — without good nutrition, they often start school behind their peers, and they’re more likely to repeat a grade or have trouble in school,” Harp said. “We try to get families as much healthy food — especially produce — as possible, which is why Amerigroup’s support makes such a huge difference. It helps young kids have healthier lives and be better prepared to start school.”
Roughly 650,000 people in Harris County are experiencing food insecurity, and about 300,000 of them are children. Kids’ Meals focuses on the roughly 26,000 children at the younger end of that spectrum who are not yet in kindergarten. By 2031, the group aims to be able to feed all of them.
“With the help of organizations like Amerigroup, Kids’ Meals is helping families ensure that their children are in the best possible position to have health in childhood and success in life,” Harp said.