Brain Food

Amid the ritual hullabaloo of the back-to-school process, there’s the privilege of eating. School means free or discounted food for more than 50 percent of Clark County School District students who would be hungry without assistance—a tragic commentary on the state of our economic recovery.

With Las Vegas’ unemployment rate still hanging at a national high of 13.8 percent, the basic needs of an alarming share of children aren’t being met. At least 150,000 Clark County kids lack sufficient meals, 6,000 of whom are homeless or without a permanent address.

So back-to-school means back-to-food. In addition to in-school meals, Three Square food bank is again offering two food programs for children. The nonprofit piloted Kids Cafe in 2009 to provide after-school meals for kids who weren’t having dinner at home, and this year the program is expected to provide more than 2,000 meals per day. At-risk kids are identified by school counselors, and the meals are offered in conjunction with after-school programs.

“The need is greater than ever for these kids,” says Three Square spokeswoman Brittany Markarian.

Meanwhile, Three Square’s BackPack for Kids Program is set to enter its fourth year of providing in-need students with backpacks full of food to carry them through the weekend, because their only reliable meals are weekdays at school. The BackPacks program started in 2008 with 200 backpacks per week, and is now serving more than 7,000 children per week.