Hunger Relief When School’s Out
Maryland kids who benefit from school feeding programs during the academic year miss more than 40 million meals in the summer. Our Summer Clubs try to bridge this gap.
Despite receiving year-round food assistance, buying groceries in bulk, and even taking a free class on couponing, Savannah L. and her family of five kids always seem to be running low on food. For this reason, Savannah depends on the school breakfast and lunch programs that help feed her three elementary-aged children.
“When school is in session, I don’t have to worry about my kids going hungry because I’m fortunate enough to live somewhere that has to offer meals,” she said.
Her youngest children access 30 meals a week through these community feeding programs, but when summer comes around and school is out, Savannah finds herself struggling to provide enough food for her kids to eat.
“Those months are hard,” she said. “Especially when you have more than one kid depending on you to put food in front of them, but you’re not even sure what you’ll have or if you’ll have enough.”
With parents like Savannah in mind, President Barack Obama proposed a permanent, national expansion of summer feeding benefits for children in the fiscal 2017 budget earlier this year. The proposed funding would help provide support to parents whose children lose free and reduced price school meals during the summer months.
To help alleviate the summer meal gap for children, the Maryland Food Bank provides free meals to kids through the Summer Club program at partner sites like Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and other recreation centers. Throughout the summer months, the food bank’s community kitchen is running on all cylinders to produce more than 158,000 meals for kids in need.
“These are healthy, nutritious meals,” said Mel Brennan, the food bank’s vice president of programs and network relations. “The meals are prepared following the U.S.D.A. guidelines and are made up of well-balanced, nutritious foods, including fruit and vegetables.”
Last summer, Savannah found some piece of mind when her children stumbled into a local community center and were given meals that included fruit, vegetables, and milk. The kids were able to return to the community center all summer long, and Savannah was relieved to know they were getting nutritious food to eat.
“Fruit is so expensive,” Savannah said. “But it’s important for the kids to have it. As a parent, it’s my job to fill them with healthy food and I’m doing what I can to make that happen.”
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