When I think of food drives, I think of Thanksgiving. I think of the holiday season and the sudden interest in serving others that springs up in people during November and December. But hunger and food insecurity don’t discriminate based on the season. In fact, summer can be an especially difficult time for families whose kids would otherwise be receiving free or reduced meals at school. Check out these facts about summer hunger from the organization No Kid Hungry:
- “Summer is a time of need. For some kids, summer is a time of joy and freedom. For millions of kids who rely on school for regular meals, however, summer can be a time of hunger and anxiety. Research shows that family grocery costs rise more than $300 a month when school is out and school meals disappear, putting a strain on already-tight budgets. That leaves many families making tough trade-offs; two-thirds of all low-income families say they’ve had to choose between food and utilities, two-thirds also had to choose between food and medical care.
- Summer hunger has long-term consequences. A lack of reliable nutrition during the summer months takes a major toll on children. Kids who struggle with hunger are more likely to experience “summer slide”, forgetting what they learned and starting the next school year months behind their more affluent peers. Kids who struggle with hunger are more likely to experience long-term health consequences, like iron deficiency, anemia, asthma, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
- Summer meals are a lifeline for hungry kids. Summer Meals are a lifeline for kids in need. The national summer meals program was created 40 years ago to help students get enough nutrition when school is out of session. Summer meals programs are funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); administered by state agencies, such as state departments of education; and run by public and private organizations, including schools, community centers and faith-based organizations. To find the closest summer meal site, simply text the word “FOOD” to 877-877.
- The summer meals program doesn’t reach many kids who need it. When the program works well, it’s a lifeline. Today, however, the program just doesn’t reach a majority of kids in need; of the 22 million kids who receive a free or reduced-price school lunch, only 4 million are getting a summer meal. Barriers like transportation, unsafe streets, distance and extreme weather stop millions of kids from accessing the program and getting the food they need.”
United Way of Southeastern Connecticut is committed to ensuring that everyone in New London County has enough to eat during the summer. The Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center operates year-round, collecting and distributing food to agencies and food pantries in the area. In addition, our Mobile Food Pantry brings fresh produce to surrounding towns throughout the year, some of which comes from the Coogan Farm giving garden. You can become a part of the solution by getting involved with any of these initiatives, and help increase the number of children in our community that stay healthy and fed this summer!