In 2020, nearly 8.3 million U.S. households reported using a food pantry, an increase of 2.3% over 2019. Further financial strains caused by the pandemic increased food insecurity for children across the country. The USDA says more than 10% of households (12.3 million) are food insecure – and that number is growing.
With families struggling for the basics such as food and shelter, things like dental care and oral care products fall by the wayside as they navigate complex systems with limited access and resources. Children suffering from food insecurity often rely on afterschool programs as a safe place to do their homework, study, receive meals and basic supplies, and participate in healthy activities. That’s why this year, with help from Patterson Dental, we partnered with afterschool programs, food pantries and homeless shelters to provide children with oral care products and instruction, and connect their parents to local safety net dental providers.
America’s ToothFairy collaborates with both community partners and nonprofit dental clinics to overcome barriers faced by underserved families and establish important oral health resource channels that are easily accessible. By connecting with families and kids at trusted community centers, we reinforce the importance of oral health and help provide them with the care, education and resources necessary for good oral health.
Patterson Dental’s support of the Smile Guardian Food Bank and Afterschool Program Initiative enabled us to expand programming to engage food pantries and after-school programs to provide oral health resources, education and connections to area clinics for 25,000 children and:
56 organizations in 21 states including California, New Jersey, Georgia, and Iowa received kits to distribute to families in crisis. The kits contained zippered pouches with dental hygiene supplies, fun educational activity booklets, and a brochure for parents that stresses the importance of healthy dental hygiene habits for every stage of life.
Organizations that received kits included the House of Hope in Florence, SC, who has been serving the needs of those experiencing homelessness for more than 30 years. In recent years they’ve served the emergency and long-term needs of more than 1,100 individuals, including approximately 220 children. Likewise, Open Cupboard in Oakdale, MN serves the east metro area of Minnesota but is open to anyone in need of food. They serve an average of 4,000 households each week–a 941% increase since 2019.
Kids who participate in the afterschool programs of Boys & Girls Clubs in Watertown, SD and Oshkosh, WI also received kits. The programs each serve hundreds of kids each day and work to assure success is within reach of every young person who enters their doors, with all members on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and living a healthy lifestyle.
We are grateful to the generous people at Patterson Dental for making this initiative possible!
To learn more about collaborating with America’s ToothFairy on future projects, sign up for partnership alerts here.