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Gambling That We Can End Childhood Hunger in Las Vegas

            In the casinos of Las Vegas, there’s much to gawk at and reminders everywhere that you are being watched closely as well.  Every casino has “eye-in-the-sky” technology, more per square foot than anywhere in the U.S.  Plastic black globes making it difficult to tell which way the camera is pointing are ubiquitous. They watch every table, change window, guest, and casino employees. Reconnaissance teams monitor video screens for guest safety and to identify card counters, loaded dice, hands under the table. What’s most precious to the owners – every single dollar and chip – is never for a moment out of sight. The entire system depends on the “eye-in-the-sky.”

            Off the Strip, Las Vegas looks different. Instead of resort buffets that feed 5000 a day, children in classrooms wait for their yogurt and granola breakfast, and are often still there 10 hours later for the chicken sandwich and grapes “after school snack” that is their only dinner.

            We visited a Boys and Girls Club, afterschool meal program at an elementary school, and a breakfast in the classroom program for middle school students.  The children were quick to tell Mary Sue Milliken about their favorite foods and show Jill Davis their favorite toys. A principal told us of how much better the kids are doing since they moved to breakfast after the bell. School Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, insisted “the only way to create economic opportunity for low income kids is through education, and the only way to educate them is to make sure their basic needs are met.”

In Nevada only 47% of the kids who get school lunch are getting school breakfast. Governor Brian Sandoval and First Lady Kathleen Sandoval fought for and enacted legislation that will change that by mandating breakfast after the bell for school districts with high percentages of low-income kids. The Clark County school district is the 5th largest in the U.S. so we can’t end childhood hunger in America without ending it here. We have the necessary ingredients: a culinary destination with chef /restaurant partners, a champion in First Lady Kathleen Sandoval and the Governor, a capable partner in the Three Square Food Bank. 

Unlike casino guests, these kids, are all but invisible. Some are homeless. Too many grow-up in violent surroundings. Many of the school children are born here and are citizens but their parents are not which makes for constant challenges.  For these kids we are their “eye-in-the-sky”.  It is our vigilance that keeps them safe.  We must be the ones to intervene when something goes wrong for them. We must be the ones who say we won’t let them out of our sight because there is nothing more precious.

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