I’ve learned that being a dad is all about answering a continual barrage of questions. Especially in the summertime.
Can we go to swimming?
Can we go to the playground?
When will we play Splatoon?
Can you get my brother to stop copying me?
What are we having for lunch?
I rarely have to think about my answers “Sure. . . OK. . . maybe tonight. . . leave your brother alone. . . PB&Js.” Unfortunately for some fathers, that last question is incredibly hard to answer. Especially in the summertime.
Every parent wants to be able to provide enough food for their kids and not have to look them in the eyes and say “We can’t have lunch today. We don’t have anything to eat.” School breakfast and lunch programs provide meals to food insecure kids during the school year, but what happens when school is out in the summer? The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is there to provide meals, but only 1 out of every 5 of the kids that get meals during the school year are able to access these meals when school is out.
Every year food banks strive to get closer to closing this gap; on average meals served by the network through SFSP have grown 17 percent annually since 2011. Yet, SFSP does have limitations, and food banks continue to enhance their program models to reach children that are difficult to reach, like those in rural areas, areas of high crime and communities that are ineligible for SFSP.
I’m proud to work at an organization that continues to address these barriers. Our network of food banks is leveraging local innovation to get the food where it’s needed through food trucks, busses and other delivery methods. Food banks in the network are going beyond SFSP to provide children nutritious food during the summer through BackPack Programs, School Pantries, and mobile markets. We are partnering with schools, libraries, churches and the rest of our network of 60,000 food pantries and meal programs to raise awareness of our summertime feeding programs. And finally, we’re establishing new feeding sites in communities where there is no access to meals in this critical out-of-school timeframe. The number of SFSP sites alone grew by 15 percent from summer 2013 to 2014.
Last summer our network’s collective effort provided children with 5.7 million meals through SFSP. That’s 5.7 million times that a father could provide the answer he would want to give when his kids ask, “What are we having for lunch?”
*Brady Koch is the director of program capacity, public policy, and research at Feeding America. He's also a father to two young children.