COLUMBIA - Pizza Tree, a local restaurant in Columbia, is participating in a national campaign that works with the non-profit group No Kid Hungry, which is focused on eliminating child hunger in the United States.
In the month of May, Pizza Tree will be donating one dollar of every pizza to the Slice Out Hunger campaign which contributes directly to eliminating hunger in the state of Missouri.
"We got involved with No Kid Hungry through a different group called Slice Out Hunger, and they have a program called Slice Out Special which directly benefits No Kid Hungry," Pizza Tree owner John Gilbreth said.
Slice Out Hunger is a national program that creates pizza-related events and campaigns to support American hunger relief and prevention initiatives.
"I hadn't seen anybody else around doing it, and nobody else in Missouri doing it even. It's easy for us to tally up the money at the end of the month and know it's going to donate to No Kid Hungry," Gilbreth said.
In the state of Missouri, more than 50 percent of children that are in school are eligible for a free and reduced meal, according to No Kid Hungry statistics.
This means that more than half of students in the state aren't able to afford healthy, nutritious meals, and No Kid Hungry Missouri is working to reverse this.
At the national level, No Kid Hungry implements state programs that assist schools and organizations in creating effective meal programs. No Kid Hungry Missouri, specifically, focuses on increasing participation and availability of breakfast; after school meals and snacks; and summer meal programs, led by schools or organizations.
Director Jonathan Barry helped get the campaign started in Missouri in April 2016.
"The mission and the goal are what attracted me to the program, not to just address child hunger but actually to develop a plan to eliminate child hunger in the state of Missouri. I thought that was an awesome idea and challenge," Barry said.
Breakfast After the Bell is one of the three plans No Kid Hungry Missouri has begun implementing in schools. Barry said the idea is to take breakfast out of the traditional cafeteria and move it into the classroom or any part of the school where students eat breakfast.
"We really work to make breakfast part of the school day for every student, not just those kids that might receive a free or reduced meal, but make breakfast a normal part of the school day so that it is available to everyone," Barry said.
Another program currently operating in schools is the Grab-and-Go program. Grab-and-Go is more popular with older students Barry said, and is more flexible regarding where children want to sit or hang out while also eating their meal.
Breakfast After the Bell and Grab-and-Go are designed specifically to normalize meals as part of the school day.
Barry said No Kid Hungry Missouri works to make sure no child in school feels different because they are receiving a meal, therefore, all students are receiving breakfast
"Kids who need the meal for whatever reason that may not have regular access to a nutritious meal, they aren't stigmatized for getting that meal or needing that meal at school," he said.
No Kid Hungry is given grants from the USDA every year to make its state branches able to implement the programs. In addition to grants, outside organizations are able to contribute as well.