Friday, July 27, 2012

Fighting Hunger in the Summer


What happens to mealtime for the children on free and reduced lunch programs when summer break begins?

By Amy Esselman

Once summer hits and we head to the pool, it can be easy to forget that to some kids, school is more than books and homework; it’s a home away from home and a place to eat lunch. Lunch may not sound like a big deal—in fact there are probably tons of kids happy to be away from “school lunch.” But then again, there are millions of kids that aren’t.

According to USA Today, nearly 20 million kids around the country receive free or reduced price lunches at schools. In the article, some schools note that kids would come to school for breakfast and hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before.

These programs give meals to kids who may not be getting them elsewhere. So what happens in the summer? The need doesn’t go away. The same 20 million kids still need to eat, but where do they go?

In some places, they don’t have to go far.

In California, there are schools that host free lunch programs throughout the summer, Monday through Friday. They aim to provide kids with food so they don’t have to go hungry at home. Seems like a great idea, and it is. But, it hasn’t reached everyone. There is still capacity in some of these locations for at least double the amount of kids. If there are kids without lunch in these areas—schools want them to come eat! It’s free, for kids 18 and under, regardless of where you live, or your circumstance.

The article discusses that because of fewer learning opportunities and activities in the summer there is a decrease in the number of kids participating in federally funded meal programs—and basically, fewer kids are getting to eat. Summer programs make it easier to access meals, and without them kids lose both the chance to learn, and the chance to eat something during the day.

It’s a scary thought that kids, at any age, aren’t being properly fed and taken care of. But, these programs are popping up everywhere. They are great examples of community service and giving back to students in need. If they don’t eat at school, they might not get to eat at all.

In the summer, it’s hard to advertise these meal opportunities, because kids aren’t in the building, or out at recess. But hopefully in the future, as these programs grow, the word can get to parents and communities before kids leave for summer.

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