(Shreveport, LA) – For kids with low-wage families, summer often means the loss of regular breakfasts and lunches. In Caddo Parish, students attend 14 K-12 schools that are in a food desert where there is no grocery store within a mile. A newly formed partnership between United Way of Northwest Louisiana and Kellogg’s® Rice Krispies® aims to help provide additional food sources for two Caddo Parish Transformation Zone schools to reverse this issue.

Their solution? Raised garden beds with fresh fruits and vegetables. Employees from both businesses as well as school administrators volunteered their time to build the beds from scratch, Friday. The beds were planted on the campus of Oak Park Elementary Microsociety School in Mooretown and Fair Park Prep Academy Middle School in Queensborough – both schools identified with the highest need for additional sources of food.

The Transformation Zone schools are all Title 1 schools with children living in poverty. One-hundred percent of the children attending Transformation Zone schools receive free or reduced lunch. These schools have been classified as some of the poorest schools in the State of Louisiana.

“We know that nutrition and learning are linked and hungry kids can’t learn,” said Renee Ellis, community engagement specialist with Caddo Schools Transformation Zone. “That’s why offering free, nutritious meals is so important. Food sources are limited in this area and we can’t continue to let our children go hungry during summer months.”

Summer is a critical time for children’s academic and physical well-being. Six out of seven low-income children who eat a free or reduced-price school lunch during the academic year do not get access to the same nutritious meals during the summer. Working with schools and summer programs is part of United Way’s strategy to help kids succeed in school, work and life.

“At United Way, we are fighting for the success of young children and it’s important to look at the full picture,” said Dr. Bruce Willson, United Way NWLA CEO. “This is just one way for us to provide for the children in these neighborhoods.”

Students at each school will help maintain the beds and harvest the produce to use in the school’s cafeteria, in the classroom for educational instructional about healthy food choices, as well as to be donated to families in need.