Public schools in Texas are faced with the challenge of educating and preparing our children to compete in a global economy and serve as responsible citizens. They also must confront the reality that many children arrive at schools without eating a basic meal at home. Congregations can strengthen the health of their communities by providing valuable support to public schools and by helping them address some of the challenges they face to meet the needs of all students.
Children at Risk is an organization based in Houston that is dedicated to addressing issues affecting children including child health and nutrition, public education and parenting. Educational attainment has a powerful influence on health outcomes, including life expectancy. In addition to public policy work aimed at improving public education systems, Children at Risk works to address some of the barriers outside of the classroom impacting educational success. The organization offers a number of tools congregations can use to learn more about the schools in their community. Children at Risk can also help congregations find resources to help meet the basic needs of the children so they can focus on learning at school.
See the Texas School Guide to learn more about the schools in your area
Learn how you can help local schools implement the Food in Schools program
An astonishing 2 million children living in Texas often go without food at home. Many of those students rely on school meals to provide their daily nutrition. Children at Risk has successfully helped pass state legislation that expands access to school breakfast and after-school meals, called the Food in Schools program. School districts only need to enroll in these programs to get the benefits with little to no additional costs. However, many schools and school districts that qualify have not taken advantage of this benefit. This is especially true of smaller to mid-sized school districts.
Through the Food in Schools program, any school campus with at least 50% of students eligible for free or reduced school meals is qualified to offer free meals to all students after school, on the weekends, and/or on holidays during the school year.
Congregational leaders can work with Children at Risk to find out if their local schools are implementing the program. If not, congregation and community leaders can often provide the extra push to support schools to enroll in the program by providing them with information about ways to cost-effectively participate in the program.
These efforts can also be an entry point for congregations to work more closely with schools. Children at Risk has developed the Texas School Guide to help congregations learn more about the schools in their community. The guide includes a database providing profiles on public schools across the state of Texas. It also highlights basic social demographics and information on the educational achievement, performance and growth of the students and schools.
Congregations can use this database to identify which schools could most benefit from community support and explore how they can help. Looking at the school data can reveal which schools could use mentors and tutors, advocates for meal programs, and a number of other initiatives where church-school partnerships would be valuable.
Children at Risk is a great example of a partner organization that congregations can work with to support child health, education and nutrition in their community.