Middle and High school students arrive at the school health clinic with a variety of symptoms, and in recent years, school nurses have found many are related to hunger. Students often complain of headaches and stomachaches that are frequently found to be due to inadequate or poor nutrition.
To counter this food insecurity, the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) earlier this school year provide grant support to supply and stock emergency snack cabinets at Glenridge and Maitland middle schools, the Winter Park 9th Grade Center and Winter Park High School. (They are four of the 12 schools in the Winter Park Consortium. All 12 receive the free, school-based health and wellness services – including health clinics staffed by licensed nurses – that are part of the Coordinated Youth Initiative supported annually by WPHF.)
Each school site received a supply of individual snacks including crunchy granola, cereal bars, trail mix, peanut butter crackers and a gluten-/peanut-free popcorn snack.
Sites also are stocked with Gatorade—for students with upset stomachs and shelf-stable chocolate milk for athletes and diabetics.
The program, according to Tori Sheahan, nurse practitioner and coordinator of the WPHF School Nursing Initiative, has been a success. “The kids think it’s great—they leave with a smile.”
In addition to the snack cabinets, WPHF provides grant support so hungry students at Cheney, Dommerich, Lakemont and Lake Sybelia elementary schools receive supplementary food packs through the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida’s Hi-Five Food Pack Program. The food packs contain shelf-stable food items students can consume at home when they are not at school receiving meals.
“We are well aware when students are hungry, they find it hard to focus on academics or a healthy lifestyle,” said Debbie Watson, WPHF Vice President. “The snack cabinets and the Hi-Five Food Packs are designed to help remove hunger as a barrier to good health and to enable students to do their academic best.”