What We Do
1 in 4 children in our community go to bed hungry each night. Some children won’t have anything to eat from lunchtime in school on Friday until breakfast Monday morning when they return. This doesn’t include holidays and summer breaks.
Children who don’t get enough to eat, especially during their first three years, miss out on essential nutrients during this critical time of growth. They will be dramatically disadvantaged and are more likely to be hospitalized and face higher risks of health conditions like asthma and anemia, developing compromised immune systems.
Children facing hunger struggle in school and beyond. They are more likely to repeat a grade in elementary school, experience developmental issues with motor skills and language, along with potential behavioral problems. As they get older, increased crime has been linked to hunger too. Children who don’t have enough to eat are destined to do worse academically and socially.
Children who face hunger come from families who face hunger too. According to Feeding America, 84% of households served by Feeding America report buying the cheapest food instead of healthy food in order to provide enough to eat. 25% of children in these households are at risk and may be forced to rely exclusively on hunger relief provided by organizations like Feeding America to make ends meet. Where Love Grows helps to close the gap through our family dinner night events and cooking programs.
Family Dinner Night Events
Where Love Grows hosted its first family dinner night January 15, 2013. The original intent was to share the tradition of the “family dinner table”. A home-cooked meal was prepared for 70 children. Where Love Grows served over 100 meals. The students responded positively knowing they were served with love and kindness, resulting in engaging conversations and the opportunity to learn about the children. That night, Where Love Grows witnessed childhood hunger first-hand, learning 1 in 4 children in Hillsborough County live each day with food insecurity. This is one of the highest rates in the nation. We knew we had to take immediate action. What was supposed to be an annual event has evolved into monthly dinners. As of June 2021, Where Love Grows has served over 26,000 meals to children and families living each day with food insecurity. We’ve learned our dinners are so much more than a family style meal. Everyone involved feels the bonds being created as they are served with love and relationships grow. With federal programs in place to provide 2 meals a day to children on weekdays and during the school year, the gap to be filled includes after-school hours, weekends & school vacations. This is where our family dinner night events have made a difference and will continue to do so. We are feeding a population that would not otherwise be served, filling much needed gaps.
Where Children Leave with Bellies Full of Food and Hearts Full of Love
By the end of 2013, Where Love Grows was restless, wanting to do more. Inspired by the Chinese Proverb, “Feed a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.” , July 2014, Where Love Grows Summer Cooking Camp launched. The success of the program was well received in the community as 25 students thrived. They were taught important culinary skills and self-sufficiency while using items they would easily find in their pantries. The program was held at the Epicurean Hotel led by their professional chefs.
Mobile Cooking Program Evaluation:
- Math and reading skills improved through recipe management
- Personal development benefits include improved leadership skills, teamwork efforts and improved self-esteem and confidence
- 79.7% of the students surveyed eat more vegetables post class.
- 73% of the students cooked more during the program
- 88.4% cooked more after completion of the cooking class series