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Summer is almost here! That means sunshine, splash grounds, and… hunger?
For the 21.5 million low-income children who rely on free or reduced-price meals at school each day, summer is a time of hunger and food scarcity. Without those badly needed breakfasts and lunches, these children do not have access to the quantity or quality of food that they need to be healthy. Families just can’t absorb the $300 increase in grocery costs that occur when children lose access to their free/cheap meals during the summertime.
This is a very, very serious problem. In fact, I think it’s the biggest problems that low-income families face each summer.
But fortunately, we’ve found a few solutions.
Why are free summer meals so important?
Hunger pains do so much more than hurt little tummies. Hunger has a devastating effect on a child’s health and education.
- …are sick more often, recover slower and are more likely to be hospitalized.
- …have more headaches, stomachaches, colds, ear infections and fatigue.
- …cannot learn as fast or as well. They cannot concentrate.
- …have significantly more behavioral, emotional and academic problems. They are more aggressive and more anxious.
- …are more susceptible to obesity as adults.
Fortunately, there is a nationwide summer food service program that provide free meals for children during the hot, hungry months of summer.
Get Free Food at a Summer Food Service Program
Only 1 in 7 eligible children participates in a summer food service program. These programs provide free summer meals to children, but the meals must be eaten on-site. They are usually found at local schools but are sometimes in other buildings. Anyone age 18 or younger can be served by these programs. Some locations offer adults the chance to purchase a meal for a small cost.
Families who don’t participate in summer food programs often end up spending $300 on extra groceries during each month that the children are not in school. Families who qualify for free or reduced school lunches simply don’t have that kind of flexibility in their budget.
Food banks can offset the expense of groceries. Food banks provide healthy, nutritious food for your family. Some even provide fresh fruits, vegetables and frozen meats! It all depends on what your local food bank offers.
You can find your local food bank using these resources:
Other Summer Meal Programs
There may be additional summer meal resources in your local community. The best place to contact is your local food bank! Many food banks coordinate special summer programs, such as Picnics in the Park (Idaho).