I can vividly remember the excitement that came with the last few hours of school before that final bell rang, officially announcing summer vacation was here. I had a lucky enough childhood that for me, summer meant at least five trips to the pool a week, biking with friends in the sun, cooling off in the always over-air conditioned public library and endless games of flashlight tag with the neighborhood crew at night.
Unfortunately, for the nearly 22 million children today who depend on free or reduced-priced meals to sustain a full and nutritious diet, summer months mean added anxiety and worry about having enough food to get from the last school bell through Labor Day. This can leave these young students malnourished and may lead to summer learning loss or a development slump.
For many of the food-insecure children in our country, meals provided at school may be the only guaranteed nutrients they have access to throughout the day. While families do their best to make dollars stretch, the support provided throughout the school year helps round out daily meals. Many struggling families look to the Feeding America network of food banks to replace those lost meals throughout the summer months - making June through August one of the most critical seasons for supporting local hunger-relief organizations.
Thankfully, there is government programming that helps non-profits subsidize their efforts to provide more meals for children with less options in the summertime. Half of Feeding America network food banks are able to utilize the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) that helps provide funding for child meal programs across the country. With this additional funding, food banks are better able to support more engaging meal sites and supply more food – but it’s just a start. Less than 4 million children participate in SFSP as opposed to the nearly 22 million who find meal support throughout the school year. SFSP is a contributing factor to the child programming already active at Feeding America food banks but it’s also the continued support of the public that can greatly impact food banks working to feed more kids in need throughout the summer months.
Support from the community to make sure no child will have to worry about where their next meal comes from makes all the difference to a food bank working to bridge the meal gap throughout the summer. Simple support given by spreading awareness, donating kid-friendly groceries and volunteering time at local food banks and hunger-relief organizations might change what summer means to kids facing hunger. Find your local food bank today with our food bank finder.
Together, the Feeding America network serves more than 12 million children each year, but no child should go without access to food over the summer. Together we can change summer from being a time of uncertainty and stress, to what summer should mean for kids – fun.
*Brittany Banks is a communication manager at Feeding America.Tags: Fighting Hunger in Action , How We Work