Washington County: Home to Beautiful Scenery, Amazing Art, Groomed Trails and … Hungry Children
There's no doubt St. George and Washington County are established on a national and even international stage as an excellent tourist destination, fitness mecca and fairly prosperous town of caring citizens.
All that is true. But Washington County is also home to another element, a sad and dark side that many leaders and owners of 4,000-square foot homes don't want to talk about.
We have children who don't have enough to eat.
"In the 2019-2020 school year ... 44.6 percent of our students qualified for free and reduced lunches," said Washington County School District communications director Steve Dunham.
Reduced lunch? No big deal, right?
"Last year we ended with 703 homeless students," Dunham added. "We are concerned because we currently have ... 100 more than we did last year at this time."
Wait, what? We have 700 homeless kids in Washington County?! Our home?! That's not possible, is it?
"You look at the homelessness in our community and that rate is higher than what we would expect it to be," said WCSD board member Becky Dunn. "Many of these families are struggling for food and the parents themselves are not eating. They might have one meal a day. The food rations for these families are slim."
Dunn and Dunham were quick to mention a couple of the charitable organizations that help many of these below-the-poverty-line families make it, including Donna McBean's Neighborhood Connection, Tan's Treats and the Utah Food Bank.
"Sometimes the only meal kids are getting is the one's they get at school, so these amazing programs are vital," Dunn said.
"It is kind of a surprise when you consider that most of what these families are making is going to their rent," Dunham said. "We have the Utah Food Bank come to the District office and they set up a Utah Food bank once a month for the community. Every one of these agencies is seeing an increase in demand."
So what can we do. Finding out about these grim facts, many of our heartstrings are being tugged. More than politics, water shortages and voter fraud, we are humans who care and we want to help.
"The Utah Food Bank has tremendous resources to help families," Dunham said. "And they're adding sites where families can go pick up some food, no questions asked."
To donate, go to Utah Food Bank Southern Distribution Center. You can also help out by donating or volunteering with Tan's Treats or Neighborhood Connection.
If your excuse is "I didn't know where to go," or "I paid at church," that's just not going to hold water. The links above tell you where to go, and hungry kids need food, not tithes and offerings.