The families of nearly 400 children in Baltimore Head Start classes received boxes packed with healthy food items Thursday from Feed the Children and the United Way of Central Maryland.

Another 400 boxes will be distributed to low-income families this week.

"Food insecurity is a profound problem in our community," said Molly Shattuck, healthy food ambassador for the local United Way and founder of Molly Shattuck Vibrant Living. "It's imperative that we continue to come up with solutions to put healthy, affordable meals on the tables of families who need it."

On Thursday, families of children at St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore's Head Start on Caroline Street received canned corn, green beans, carrots, northern beans, beef broth and peanut butter. The other boxes will go to pre-registered families.

More than 300,000 people in central Maryland lack consistent access to healthy, affordable food, according to United Way.

The United Way's Access to Healthy Food Initiative, launched in October 2011, is intended to improve access to nutritious food by providing 1.5 million pounds of food each year. In its first year, the charity distributed 2.1 million pounds of healthy food.

John Schiavone, president of St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, said the families are grateful for the food.

"Studies show that children who go to school hungry have a harder time concentrating, which significantly affects their ability to learn," Schiavone said. "These food boxes will help provide greater food stability to the 800 children in our Head Start programs and their families."

ywenger@baltsun.com

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