Sometimes daunting problems require complex and difficult long-term solutions. Sometimes, however, a simple solution can make a big difference even when the problem is big. It doesn’t get simpler than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich — and for the Baltimore Hunger Project, a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich could help a child in Baltimore city and Baltimore County have food over the weekend. For the month of February, the Baltimore Hunger Project is collecting jars of peanut butter and jelly to distribute to Baltimore city and county students who depend on free school lunches during the week so they can have food over the weekend.

The time between Friday afternoon and Monday morning has been called the “hunger gap.” It is the period when homeless children and those living in poverty lack reliable access to food. Many children in Baltimore city and county rely on free breakfast and lunch provided at school. When school is closed on weekends and holidays, some of these children go hungry. The Baltimore Hunger Project seeks to address this time period and ensure that students don’t go hungry when school is closed.

The numbers highlight a daunting problem: Nearly 80% of Baltimore city students (64,000 children) and 44% of Baltimore County students (50,000 children) are considered “food insecure,” which adds up to 114,000 students in our region who may struggle with hunger when school is not in session. Good nutrition is critical to good health and success at school. Children who come to school hungry often exhibit trouble concentrating and have lower math and reading scores, difficulty interacting with peers and lower graduation rates. By providing weekend food, the Baltimore Hunger Project can improve students’ health and increase their chances of success in school by removing one obstacle that prevents them from reaching their full potential.

There are many ways to donate to the Baltimore Hunger Project, a fantastic organization started by Lynne Kahn in her garage that has grown to supply 650 meals to children in 24 Baltimore city and county schools. “The response from the community so far has been overwhelming and we are so grateful,” Kahn said. “We are working to eliminate barriers, big and small, for food-insecure children in our community.”

This month the organization is collecting peanut butter and jelly to distribute to students. Items can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday at 117 Old Padonia Road, Suite E, Cockeysville, MD 21030.

You can also send items directly through Amazon with a link provided on the organization’s website.

As we think about all the issues facing Baltimore, it can seem hard to find solutions. Sometimes a small gesture can make a big difference — and with just a click of your mouse or an extra few minutes in the grocery store, you can help ensure that a child doesn’t spend his or her weekends hungry. Think about making a difference this month — it can be as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Written by Sarah David