Having friends that are teachers can cause tension when they are actively enjoying their summer vacations. Even my friends in the for-profit sector are enjoying summer hours, taking lazy river rides and reading books while I gear up for the busiest time of the year. That's because even when it seems like everyone else does, hunger doesn't take a summer break.
This summer has been my first experience with summer feeding programs – programs that help ensure children get enough to eat when school is out and they aren’t receiving free or reduced-cost school meals. Thanks to the effort of fellow Child Hunger Corps alumni Eddie Oliver, Feeding America-member Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana’s Summer Meals for Kids program currently operates in nine counties and serves an estimated 490 kids a day. This year, program development grants have led to greater program opportunities including Summer Weekend Meals, family take-home boxes and expanded lunch and supper opportunities.
A diversity of meal programs are needed because each community within Gleaners’ service area – and across the nation – has its own version of hunger. In Indianapolis, where there is a large summer meals program, Gleaners partnered with 32 community summer programs to provide children a backpack full of nutritious food on Fridays during the summer. This backpack also includes a couple pieces of fresh produce. As part of a neighborhood meal in a community that is ineligible for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) – a federal program that funds summer meals for children in need – Gleaners is distributing take-home boxes of food for entire families in need. In other cases we are distributing family boxes through a local partner or food pantry, in conjunction with a preregistration that occurred through the schools. Finally, we are working with other organizations running SFSP lunch sites to hand out vouchers to be redeemed at the local high school once a week. This year we were also able to transition an afterschool supper program to a summer program so that kids and their families are able to rely on the meal year round.
Summer feeding programs look different in different communities that Gleaners’ serves, and that's because hunger looks different in each of our communities. The important thing is that in one way or another, we are reaching every community and working hard to meet the need for families and children struggling to make ends meet when school is out. And we hope that one day in the future, summer will finally take a summer break – all year long.
*Hope Pascoe is a member of the fourth cohort of the Child Hunger Corps and is working at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana.
The Child Hunger Corps is a national service program designed to increase the capacity and capability of food banks to execute programs targeted towards the alleviation of child hunger. The objective of the program is to increase the number of nutritious meals served to children in need in local communities across the country. The Child Hunger Corps initiative is sponsored by the ConAgra Foods Foundation.
**Photo courtesy of Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana.Tags: Innovative Solutions to Hunger , Food Bank Network , Indiana , Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, Inc.