On Friday and Saturday, March 28 and 29, the Junior League of Mobile will formally reveal their new community outreach program for 2014-2019.
In choosing their project, or “impact area,” the Junior League took great pains to pick a program that would have a truly lasting effect on the community.
“When we looked at areas, like education or other things that are concerns for the community, we also looked around at who’s already working on them because we didn’t want to duplicate the efforts if we felt like someone was doing it and doing it well,” JLM president Andrea Moore said.
The “impact area” the organization decided on will target sixth grade students in multiple Mobile-and-Baldwin-County public schools. Entitled “Healthy Children: Hunger, Nutrition and Fitness,” the project focuses on not only providing children with healthier food choices, but on reaching out to students who are at risk for hunger. More than 24,000 children in Mobile County suffer from food insecurity, according to a press release from the Junior League.
JLM has already been addressing this issue. They have been working with various food banks and have spent the last few years helping to expand their “Backpack Programs.” These programs provide food to children who may not have access to meals away from the school cafeteria, by sending home a bag of non-perishable food items that can be easily prepared by the child. The program aims to ensure that students suffering from hunger have access to food while not at school, according to Moore.
Jenny Humphreys, JLM Communications Vice President, believes that the strategic way in which food is chosen and delivered makes the program all the more important.
“One thing I think is cool is that they make sure it’s stuff that a child can handle fixing themselves, so that they can feed themselves and not have to rely on someone else. If their parents are out working, they can fix food for themselves,” Humphreys said.
Expansion of existing efforts such as the Backpack Program to include more schools remains one of JLM’s major goals.
Nutrition and fitness programs will also be implemented at certain schools in the area. Activities such as the Junior League of Mobile’s Downtown Walking Tour and school programming using the Xbox Kinect Extreme 6 have already been put into practice. The Junior League hopes that the game’s appeal will help students enjoy getting fit, Moore said.
The five-year project includes an impact study on the participating schools to determine the successes of and improvements needed for particular programs.
“We really want to know that [the programs are] working and that we’re making a difference….It’s not enough now to be non-profit. We have got to show what impact we’re making on the community,” Moore said.
The Junior League believes that such research is crucial in filling an informational void.
“This would be the first true data from South Alabama, specifically Mobile County, that exists to understand the scope of how big the malnutrition issue is, how big the over nutrition issue is, and what programming can really make an impact on that,” Moore said.
In fact, Moore explained that the Junior League had trouble finding data on children and fitness at all, making their study all the more important for the students and their futures.
“Children’s data is not readily available, and the problem is if you are a child who suffers from childhood obesity, there’s a more likely chance that as an adult you will struggle with that, too,” she said.
As part of the reveal event, the Crescent Theatre will screen the documentary “A Place at the Table,” which details the problem of childhood hunger in America.
JLM hopes the screening inspires more community members to get involved.
“Until I watched the documentary, I didn’t understand how widespread food insecurity was….It’s all over America, so I’m very excited to show that to our community and members, so that our members will get more passionate about what area we will be working on,” Humphreys said.
This impact area is a means of bringing about true, measurable change in the community, but also about fostering a sense of compassion within members of the Junior League of Mobile and the general populace. Humphreys said.
“We want member engagement, but we also want engagement from community members.”
The two-day event will begin at 10:30 a.m. each day at the Crescent Theatre downtown and will conclude at 1:30 p.m. There will be a screening of the documentary, and food and beverages will be provided. It is free and open to the public, although some scenes in the documentary may not be suitable for children.
The Junior League of Mobile is a women’s organization committed to community service and personal growth of its members. For more information on the Junior League as well as the new impact area and the weekend event, visit juniorleaguemobile.org.