By Peggy Wang

In order to live a healthy life, children need many things. They need suitable play equipment to get their exercise. They need accessible medical and dental care. And they need people to educate them on how to live a healthy lifestyle.

But most importantly, they need to not feel hungry at the end of the day. While these issues are top of mind during the holiday season, they affect families in our community year round.

You can help fill kids’ stomachs in Oakland.

In Alameda County, where Oakland is the largest city, one in five people are served by Alameda County Community Food Bank. Nearly half of the Food Bank’s clients are children. It’s a disappointing fact when you consider that Americans waste 40 percent of their food each year, or roughly $165 billion in food.

If you’re an Oakland resident who has enough to eat, and you tend to — however unintentional — let fresh fruit rot and other food go to waste, the Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities program asks you to donate your extra non-perishable food to those who need it most.

While this is just one small way to help, we also encourage you to learn more about how you can be part of the solution to our communities’ hunger and health challenges. Your efforts could impact the city and its people in many ways.

Alameda County Community Food Bank is the main partner of Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Oakland. The program delivers fresh produce and nutritious foods to Oakland children and their families, while also providing health care and safe places to play.

Over the last six months, we’ve expanded the distribution of healthy food in Oakland, added health screening services at elementary school-based pantries, helped fill the summer nutrition gap, expanded health and food services to middle and high school students, and built new playgrounds.

Part of the reason Healthy Cities Oakland doesn’t just focus on hunger alone is that we recognize that hunger often leads to other issues as well. If kids aren’t getting enough to eat, then they’re not focusing on their studies. If parents can’t afford to put food in their kids’ stomachs, then those kids won’t have the energy to go out and play. If kids don’t have a safe place to play, they won’t get enough exercise and have an outlet for fun.

Access to the fundamental building blocks of a healthy childhood greatly affects whether or not kids reach their full potential. In Oakland, thousands of parents struggle to provide the basics to their kids.

Roughly 37 percent of the city’s kids don’t graduate from high school. Though crime rates have dropped significantly in recent years, they’re still too high. One out of three children in Oakland live below the poverty line.

Reducing hunger is not going to solve all of Oakland’s problems, but it could make a tremendous difference. If more Oakland kids can focus on their studies and not on their growling stomachs, then fewer kids will drop out of school each year. If high school dropouts are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested than high school graduates, then more Oakland kids staying in school could mean less crime on Oakland streets. If high school and college graduates on average make more than non-graduates, then they’re less likely to be in poverty as well.

This holiday season; consider donating your leftover non-perishable food items or join friends and set up a food drive for Alameda County Community Food Bank. If you’re able, make a donation to the food bank – for every $1 donated, the food bank can provide $6 worth of food to families in our community. Any contribution could have an impact that helps solve Oakland’s hunger problem and beyond.

Peggy Wang is the Branch Manager in the Oakland office of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
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