Feeding America prepares for increased summer demand
Nearly 22 million children currently receive free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program, yet the majority of those children, 4 out of every 5, will lose access to those meals as public schools close for the summer months.
"For too many children, summer often means the lethargy and listlessness that accompany unfilled bellies. It means consuming empty but filling calories that contribute to the nation's childhood obesity problem. No child should go hungry just because school is out," said Matt Knott, president of Feeding America.
Research has found that some children consume up to 50 percent of their total daily calories at school during the school year. Thus, this loss of up to ten meals per child per week can create a tremendous financial burden for low-income families who are already struggling to obtain adequate food and necessities.
Feeding America's Hunger in America 2014 study elucidated many of the struggles faced by food-insecure Americans. The research was based on interviews with 60,000 people seeking food assistance at food pantries, meal programs, and other agencies.
40 percent of households reported that they watered down food or drinks to make them last longer, in an effort to have enough food to feed everyone in the home. This rate rises to 45 percent among households with children in the home.
69 percent of households reported choosing between paying for utilities and paying for food in the past year. 34 percent report making this choice every month. This is a particularly tough choice to make during the long, hot summer months.
57 percent of households reported choosing between paying their housing costs and buying food
"Every summer we see a sharp uptick in need, as more families come more often to the food pantries our network serves. At the same time, many of our food banks tell us that they see a big drop in local fund raising during the summer months.
"Many food pantries that rely heavily on local food drives to fill their shelves also report that they often have a tough time in the summer months, when church groups, scouting troops and clubs that hold most of their community's food drives go on hiatus," Knott said.
In an effort to help fill this summer meal gap, Feeding America food banks will provide meals to children that are reimbursed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Other food banks offer innovative models that vary around the country to best serve the needs of individual communities including feeding kids at fire stations, U.S. Post Offices and at picnic tables in public parks.
A number of food banks will deliver food and meals directly to low-income apartment buildings and individual homes in sparsely populated communities. Some food banks will also partner with local libraries and provide children with meals and snacks from book-mobiles. In some very rural areas, food banks will also need to ensure a steady delivery of potable water.
Last year 131 Feeding America food banks helped distribute nearly 8 million meals to children at 4,200 sites. All meals and snacks were provided to children free of charge. ■