While many kids look forward to the end of the school year and all the fun that awaits, summer can be the hungriest time of year for the 13 million kids across the country who are facing hunger. When school is out, kids lose access to meal programs they depend on such as school breakfast and lunch.
Losing those school meal programs also places an additional strain on a family’s resources as they balance food costs with other necessary expenses such as rent, transportation, and other living expenses.
Beatriz R., a mother of two from Colorado, talks about her family’s need and how a local summer meal program made a positive impact.
“It's hard because sometimes I don’t have work either, and then there's only one income. There is bills, there's gas, and so it's hectic sometimes. Sometimes we fall behind. The summer food program added a little extra income to our home because it means that we don't have to spend as much on groceries. We are able to have extra for either utilities, or clothes, or gas. It's a big help,” she said.
Many of these local summer meal sites work in conjunction with No Kid Hungry, a campaign from national anti-poverty organization Share Our Strength, to fill the food gap by connecting children from low-income families to the critical nutrition they need. The federal government runs a program that offers free, healthy summer meals to kids age 18 and under at community sites across the U.S. like churches, camps, and schools. Along with providing meals, some locations also offer free activities for the kids to enjoy.
“These meals not only help families make ends meet during the summer months, but access to consistent nutrition can have a long-term impact on a child’s health, general well-being and ability to learn,” said Derrick Lambert, senior manager at Share Our Strength.
Despite the great work of the summer meal sites across the country, research shows that they are only meeting 12-percent of the existing need. You can help more meals reach those who need them in a few different ways:
If you’re a family who would like to find a meal site near you this summer:
No Kid Hungry and the USDA created a service where families can text the word “FOOD” to 877-877 and get a list of sites in their area. The service is also available in Spanish, by texting the word “COMIDA” instead of “FOOD”.
If you’d like to bring a summer meal site to fill a need in your area:
Churches, libraries, playgrounds, and rec centers are all examples of options that could house a summer meal site. These local organizations would need to team with a Summer Meal Site sponsor who could support the program. Find a local sponsor here.
If you’d like to spread the word about local meal sites:
Share the phone number, and consider hanging posters or distributing flyers that are available in this Summer Meals Outreach Toolkit.
Learn more by watching this video about the summer meals program and families in Colorado.You can also visit http://www.nokidhungry.org to learn more about their year-round work to combat childhood hunger.