When that last school bell rings in June, droves of children come blasting out of the doors, eager to begin their summer. No more multiplication tables to memorize or spelling bees to prepare for – just fun in the sun, with no worries.
However, for the children who live in “food insecure” households (the politically correct term coined by the USDA, which essentially means “hungry” or “without food.”), summertime means losing the luxury of daily breakfasts and lunches, provided by the schools.
For these children, food is a luxury.
This doesn’t just affect a few children here and there.
Millions of children across the United States live in homes where food is scarce. Imagine, for a moment, what it must feel like, not knowing where your next meal is coming from – or when you will be able to have a next meal.
Thankfully, national and community-wide summer food programs have been established, to provide free meals for these children (aged 18 and under).
Non-profit organizations like Feeding America and Feed The Children make it their mission to ensure that no child goes hungry.
Federal initiatives, such as the USDA’s (United States Department of Agriculture) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), have approved sites located in areas (nationwide) where there is a higher concentration of children from low-income households. These SFSP sites provide free meals (which meet federal nutrition guidelines) to these children.
In communities across the country, local volunteers and organizations are banding together to provide food for children who are in need of assistance. In New Haven, Connecticut, for example, the New Haven Public School Board – in collaboration with United Way, have rolled out a new Summer Food Truck. This mobile “meals on wheels” drives around town, offering free, nutritious meals to kids and teens.
A lot of good things happen when communities rally together.
These organizations all need volunteers, and of course, they welcome donations. If you wish to volunteer your time (and/or money) to the summertime food programs in your neighborhood, check out the list of sites below. I am also listing a site that provides a Food Bank Locator, in the event that you may want to volunteer at a food bank in your town.
If you are a business owner, you may want to consider sponsoring an SFSP food site in your area.
One last word. If your children have friends or classmates who may be hungry, why not invite them over for lunch or dinner? Not only will you be doing a kind deed, you will be teaching your own children the value of community and compassion.
And that is a good thing.
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Images via cacbelmont.org (boy with apple), npr.org (truck photo credit by Timothy Cipriano/New Haven Public Schools), and fns.usda.gov (SFSP flyer).
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Feeding America: http://feedingamerica.org/how-we-fight-hunger/programs-and-services/child-hunger/summer-food-program.aspx
Feed The Children: http://www.feedthechildren.org/site/PageServer?pagename=dotorg_homepage
USDA’s Summer Food Service Program: http://www.fns.usda.gov/summer-food-service-program-sfsp
SFSP Sponsorship: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Summer/Sponsor.htm
Food Bank Locator: http://feedingamerica.org/foodbank-results.aspx
National Hunger Hotline: 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE for Spanish