The Fort Myers Police Department is stepping up to the plate to end child hunger in Southwest Florida.
On Aug. 17, 2018, the Fort Myers Police Department launched its hunger campaign, Community Outreach Against Child Hunger, or COACH.
The campaign was created by Sergeant Jackie Garret and Officer Megan Pate. They feel that there is a direct correlation between hunger and juvenile crime in Fort Myers .
There have been repeated crimes in Fort Myers where instead of electronics, money or jewelry being stolen, the thieves stole food and clothing.
The officers want to “reach beyond social communication,” the Fort Myers Police Department explained in a statement . It wants to “take on what they feel is a direct correlation between juvenile crime, delinquency, and hunger.”
The officers perceive that the perception of law enforcement will improve over the long term because of this program. Instead of arresting people stealing food, the children will see officers helping people obtain it.
To start, Sergeant Garret and Officer Pate are focusing on schools in Lee County that have a high poverty rate. The first school the officer will focus on is Franklin Park Elementary.
Principal Michelle Freeman, who recently started the job in June, believes the outreach is excellent for the community. Michelle has worked at Title I, or low-income schools, for the majority of her nearly 20 years of her professional career.
According to the officers’ findings, Franklin Park Elementary has a poverty rate of 98 percent. The poverty rate is the ratio of the number of people whose income falls below
the poverty line, or the estimated minimum level of income needed to secure the necessities of life.
Eight percent of students at the school are homeless.
Lack of consistent sizable meals has negative consequences for students. By not having food, children are known to become angrier, seeking to engage in hostile attitudes. It is more difficult for young students to concentrate in class, leading to decreased academic performance.
To make sure that students who attend Franklin Park Elementary school do not go hungry, COACH will provide groceries to needy families at the end of each month. The goal for COACH is to collect enough donations every month during the Lee County school year to feed at least 50 families.
It is estimated to cost $1,000 a month.
The official launch will take place on Friday, Sept. 7th at Millennial Brewing Company in Fort Myers.
The community is asked to donate money or non-perishable food items, including canned goods, pasta, and peanut butter.
Additional reporting by Tianna Jenkins and Michael Mora