School’s out, and for most kids, an entire summer of free-wheeling fun lies ahead. But for many children who rely on the National School Lunch Program during the school year, summer brings an end to those lunches and their families cannot fill the gap. For those kids, sadly, summer is a time of hunger.
How big is the problem? According to FRAC (the Food Research and Action Center), the federally funded Summer Nutrition Programs last year only fed one in seven of the low-income students who depended on the National School Lunch program during the regular school year. Even as the number of children receiving free- or reduced-price lunches during the school year increased, the number receiving summer meals decreased. Currently, approximately 20 million kids receive lunch through the federal school lunch program, but only about 3 million are fed through summer meal programs, leaving about 17 million kids without food assistance.
Recognizing this gap, the USDA is promoting a series of outreach and awareness programs, as well as volunteer efforts to reach hungry kids over the summer. Pilot programs include efforts to provide “food backpacks” for the weekend, as well as meal delivery to rural students.
What can you do to help? You can promote the National Hunger Hotline in your community to help families find local food sites: 1‐866‐3‐HUNGRY or 1‐877‐8‐HAMBRE. If you want to volunteer, check out http://www.serve.gov/endhunger for volunteer opportunities. If you want to shake things up on the federal level, you can write to your congresspeople in support of funding for this program and others in the Farm Bill. And of course, don’t forget to donate to your favorite hunger organization.
Here’s to all kids eating well this summer.